The Rundown: Expected Arb Raises, Adam Warren Scouting Report, John Baker Rejoins Cubs Organization

Top Of The First

It appears that the heavy lifting has been done as far as the construction of the Chicago Cubs 2016 roster. It has been a very successful offseason and if this is the team the Cubs break camp with come April, one would have to feel completely satisfied. All that’s left is settling arbitration cases. The Cubs appear to be committed to just under $32 million in salary projections to seven arb-eligible players.

Could more moves still be in the works? I suppose anything is possible. Unless the front office is overwhelmed by a trade offer it looks like the team fully intends to play Jason Heyward in CF with Jorge Soler and Kyle Schwarber flanking him on the corners on most game days.

Arb-Eligible Players and Expected Contracts

The Cubs will have to agree to terms for the 2016 season or go to an arbitration hearing with the following players (service time and expected salaries in parentheses).

  • SP Jake Arrieta (4.145 / $10.6M)
  • RP Travis Wood (5.004 / $6.4M)
  • RP Pedro Strop (4.156 / $4.7M)
  • OF Chris Coghlan (5.148 / $3.9M)
  • RP Hector Rondon (3.000 / $3.6M)
  • SP/RP Adam Warren (3.036 / $1.5M)
  • RP Justin Grimm (2.170 / $1.0M)

Relief pitchers Rex Brothers ($1.42M) and Clayton Richard ($2.0M) signed earlier this month. Travis Wood and Chris Coghlan will be free agents after this season ends and both may have some trade value this winter or during the season. The Cubs’ projected Opening Day payroll now projects to $159.7M based on those expected arbitration raises.

Could the payroll go higher? I am of the belief that the Cubs have room to add even more salary if needed. In a future edition of Rundown, I will estimate the value of the Cubs’ upcoming television contract and how it affects payroll starting this season and through the debut of a proprietary television network in 2020. Suffice to say, this front office places a high priority on intrinsic value, so if an opportunity arises to fill a position of want or need they will do so if the talent supersedes the cost to carry those contracts.

Scouting Adam Warren

With all the moves the Cubs made last week, the acquisition of swingman Adam Warren has flown a little under the radar. The Cubs gave up SS/2B Starlin Castro to get Warren, but what are the Cubs getting out of this deal besides salary relief?

Warren works well in a starting role and even better in relief. Fangraphs does a great job of breaking down the hurler’s arsenal and, without oversimplifying it, Warren’s traditional stats generally outweigh his impact stats. His league-adjusted 2015 ERA as a starter would be 3.46 and he did outpitch his FIP last year. The right-hander has an excellent pitch mix even though he doesn’t have top-of-rotation velocity and his fastball lacks elite movement. Warren does generate strikeouts with a plus slider and he often induces weak contact with a plus sinker. He is at his best running his pitches down and in on right-handed batters and down and away on lefties.

The official scouting report on Warren? Works best out of the bullpen, as evidenced by a 2.29 ERA and greater command in a 35.1 inning sample size. Still, he held his own as a starter with a league-normal drop in dominance given his 2015 workload distribution. Warren’s best role is as a multi-inning swingman. His stuff is genuinely platoon-free, he offers an ample K-Rate in either a starting or relief role, comes at batters with mid-90’s heat and a deep, deep arsenal. Could be a legitimate 4 or 5 starter but optimally you’d want him as a spot starter and long relief option on a first-division pithing staff.

Looking At The Chicago Cubs Minor League Depth

Baseball HQ ranked it’s Top 75 Impact Prospects For 2016 and the three Cubs players make the list. The capsules provide a primer on strengths and weaknesses of rookie-eligible players likely to contribute in some capacity during the 2016 season. You need to subscribe and order their Annual Forecaster to access the list, but I’ll break down the Cubs players since we have started looking at organizational minor league depth across baseball this week.

OF Billy McKinney: Started the season on fire, hitting .340 in his first 29 games at High-A, earning him a quick promotion to Double-A. The 21-year-old McKinney has a nice approach at the plate, a good understanding of the strike zone, and a nice line-drive swing. A fractured knee caused McKinney to miss the end of the season, but he should be 100% by spring.

OF Albert Almora: Turned things around after a sluggish start, hitting .301/.370/.464 in the second half, and continues to make slow, but steady progress. The former 6th overall pick is a solid offensive player with plus defensive tools that make him a fine [though non-elite] prospect.

C Wilson Contreras: Has the look of a late bloomer. After hitting .248 and .242 the past two seasons, he slashed .333/.413/.478 to win the Southern League batting title. He has always made consistent contact, but was more selective in 2015, and his solid bat speed projects to at least average power. Moves well defensively with a strong arm that limits the running game, and has a great chance to stick behind the dish.

Fact, Fiction, Truth, Or Rumor

Former Cubs catcher and great Twitter follow John Baker has joined the Chicago Cubs front office as a Baseball Operations Assistant.

In an exercise in futility, Patrick Mooney looked at Joe Maddon’s options for setting the Cubs lineup next season. Barry Rozner had a great piece on lineup options last week as well. Maddon is famous for constructing and deconstructing lineups based on myriad factors and analytic options. 2016 should be no different.

The Texas Rangers signed former Cubs OF Justin Ruggiano.

Keith Law touched on a number of Cubs topics during yesterday’s KlawChat, including what he feels would be a mistake by the Cubs to trade OF Jorge Soler to Atlanta for OF Ender Inciarte.

SP Hisashi Iwakuma failed his Dodgers physical, voiding the free-agent contract the hurler signed last week. Seattle immediately signed the right-hander to a one-year deal with vesting options for 2017 and 2018. The Dodgers are having a miserable offseason.

The Washington Nationals and Cincinnati Reds “apparently” have an agreement on a trade that would send second baseman Brandon Phillips from Cincinnati to D.C., according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Phillips needs to waive the no-trade protection granted with his 10-and-5 rights before the deal can be made official. The return to Cincinnati has yet to be announced.

Bottom Of The Ninth

Baseball Essential published a long comparison piece debating whether the 2015 Cubs or the 1969 Cubs are the best Cubs team since the world championship club of 1908. It is almost unfathomable to think that the Cubs have not won a championship since before the debut of broadcast radio.

There have been some truly great and truly awful Cubs teams since 1908 and others that were downright fun to watch regardless. As a Cubs fan since 1969 (I was 5 ½ when I went to my first game), the 2015 Cubs team offered the best combination of talent and entertainment I’ve ever seen. Here’s hoping that the 2016 squad tops last year.

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