You've built an old, low 80s win team. If that's what you're upset about missing out on, that seems a little silly. With the flexibility we'll have, they could build that whenever they want. They are aiming higher.Ok, Alternative Offseason Number 1,523
Restriction: I have to stick with a $135 million budget, which is easily consistent with what we know about their revenues and baseball operations budget. You can still easily afford the Dominican Academy and all that other organizational infrastructure with this.
Stipulation: I'll only use players I was interested in last offseason, but I get to use hindsight in how well they performed. This is to make up for the fact that I have to deal with things we didn't know at the time, like Garza getting hurt or Soto and Byrd becoming useless or having -4 Pythagorean variance. I will assume we sign the players for roughly what they ended up getting.
Stipulation 2: I'm using bWAR as the way to compare players and the net change in expected wins. It's more descriptive than fWAR and thus better for our purposes.
Step 1, let's just get this out of the way. Sign Aramis Ramirez to the deal he got with the Brewers. He wasn't nearly my first choice going into the offseason, but that deal was an insane steal. I give up the comp pick (oh the horror, I've sacrificed our whole future!), but this is a really good MLB player on a really good contract.
Relative cost: $3.8 million over Ian Stewart this year. Net gain: 7 wins.
Sign Buehrle to the rotation for the deal he got, leave Samardzija in the pen (I know, controversial, but I believe he could be a shutdown, high-leverage reliever worth just as much as any starter). Add Dotel in addition to Camp (always been a huge Dotel fan). Leave Volstad in AAA where he belonged all year and don't jerk around Travis Wood (in general, don't be the asshat team that gives out jobs based on spring training).
Your pitching staff is now:
Garza/Buehrle/Dempster/Wood/Maholm, about 3 bWAR better than what we actually had this season. Wells and Volstad in AAA for when Garza gets hurt, but hopefully you are a buyer at the deadline and not a seller.
Samardzija/Marmol/Wood/Dotel/Camp/Iowacongaline is now your bullpen.
Bullpens are tricky because WAR doesn't do a good job of measuring leverage. According to WPA, the Cubs' bullpen was seven wins below average last year in WPA. That's *at least* an average bullpen, so I'm calling that a gain of seven wins.
Total cost to the reconstruction of the pitching staff: $10 million. Net gain: 10 wins.
Joe Mather (-2.4 bWAR) should never have been on the bench. As I said, it's total amateur hour to be giving out jobs based on spring training performance. Steve Clevenger (-1.0) should never have broken camp on the MLB roster. Everyone knew (or should have known) that Castillo was the better player. Sappelt should have been in there over Reed Johnson, who never should have been signed. You bring up Rizzo from day one, burn the service time, and put LaHair on the bench, driving out DeWitt. Building the bench properly from Day 1 would have saved us $1 million and according to bWAR conservatively given us 3 wins.
So at this point, I've spent $12.8 million and given us 20 wins. We're up to .500 and I still have about $15 million to spend. Unfortunately, I've picked the low-hanging fruit and it gets a bit trickier from here.
The obvious place to upgrade is RF. Instead of paying DeJesus $4.25 million, I can go out and get a really good corner man. I'll spend the $13 million to get Beltra, a net cost of $8.75 million and a two-win improvement, plus he can play CF in a bench and LaHair shift to the outfield when Byrd falls apart early.
I'm up to 83 wins, I've got about 7 million to spend, and I've gotten us to within five wins of a playoff spot in a season where two of our starting veteran position players inexplicably forgot how to hit and our ace pitcher lost half the season to an elbow injury. I think that proves pretty conclusively that we weren't doomed to failure no matter what we did.