Today, I'm going to take a look back on some of the offseason moves that the Cubs Front Office made in the offseason leading to 2019. Thed usually takes some risks and makes some solid moves, but it seems like luck ran out in 2019. Let us examine.
3.78 ERA -> 3.81 ERA, 1.264 WHIP -> 1.391 WHIP
Cole Hamels had a 1 year/20 million dollar option that was picked up. With Chatwood walking himself out of the rotation, some reinforcement was needed. Hamels had a great first half, nearly being an all star. Then he got hurt and just was not the same the rest of the year. Overall, I'm tempted to call a 3.81 ERA in 141 innings a win, but it was certainly an overpay. There might have been more cost effective options out there, but this move did work out.
3.59 ERA -> 6.13 ERA, 1.596 WHIP ->1.765 WHIP, 10.3 H/9-> 9.5 H/9, .7HR/9 -> .7 HR/9, 4.0BB/9 -> 6.4 BB/9
So Brad Brach was a supplemental piece brought in by Thed. He had a rough first half in 2018, but an absolute lights out second half. It all fell apart for the Cubs. He had the worst ERA in the bullpen (a mighty feat considering the struggles of others). Unlike others, his HR/9 rate remained consistent. The hits per 9 even dropped, by .8. The walks went from an average 4 to a high 6.4. He got away with a bad WHIP in 2018, but in 2019 it caught up with him.
He was out of the pen by August. It is really disappointing for someone who should have been a decent arm for the 6th or 7th innings. I'm not going to sit here and say "THED SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER," because I don't think anyone could predict the ERA doubling. That WHIP was concerning, and I think getting another arm was always in order, even if it was a middle tier arm. Brach blew up worse than anyone really could have imagined. Considering the other issues with Edwards, Montgomery, and Strop, Brach's failure really became magnified. The bigger issue was not having another arm.
.238 BA ->.173 BA, .353 OBP -> .271 OBP, .436 SLG -> .250 SLG
Daniel Descalso had a career best year for Arizona in 2018. He put up a .789 OPS, or an OPS+ of 108. Decent numbers. The Cubs had a need at infield, with Addison Russell suspended. Thed signed him to a 6 million dollar deal of sorts. 2.5 for year one, then either a 3.5 million team option or 1 million buyout. Low risk, low reasonable reward if he kept up his career numbers. As a left handed hitting 2B and 3B, he's a decent backup infield option. At least on paper.
Descalso's 2019 was a disaster. After a decent few weeks in April, his production went into a freefall. Putting up a 37 OPS+, he was diagnosed with the inflammation and spent time on the IL. Disaster might be putting it lightly. I am not sure I've ever seen an OPS + that low for someone who was supposed to be getting regular playing time.
Thed probably should have seen this one coming. Descalso's career line reads .235/.320/.362/.683. Some on base skills, not much average or pop. He had 3 straight years of a plus .720 OPS, but was also on the wrong side of his prime. One would figure a dropoff. Maybe not so drastic though.
We'll see if he comes back for 2020. I doubt it. The Cubs inconsistency on offense led to this move being magnified. When the Cubs needed a bat, he was arguably the worst bat they had. Ouch.
Pitched in 5 games. Not much to say. Going into the signing he was a hopeful to contribute at some point. But he was out almost all year and a non factor. Another low risk signing that wound up doing nothing.
Pitched in 2 games. He had 2 out of 3 good years in Texas. He also came with decent age and injury history. Another low risk, but at some point these dice rolls have to pay off.
Missing from this list is one Craig Kimbrel. Since the season developed by the time he signed, I'm going to save him for later. While he was a free agent signing, I'm not sure you can count it as an offseason transaction.
Overall, we see a lot of what Thed's plan was for 2019: manage the dollars by bringing in some chancey players. There has been a lot of dice rolling in the past, and this year it just did not yield any fruit. Thed was counting on a lot of core guys to have bounce back seasons. While some did, others took steps back, and the Cubs were worse off than a year before. With a depleted farm and a payroll near tax threshold, it's tough to say what other moves the Cubs could have made. Unfortunately, whatever moves were made panned out terribly. We'll look at the moves not made in upcoming articles.