What if the Cubs had kept star players from the 2020 season?

(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /
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With the Chicago Cubs comfortably ensconced in the National League’s relegation zone, it may be time to reflect on absent friends: specifically, the star players Jed Hoyer in recent years scattered to the wind. If those players were still with the Cubs today, how much better would the 2022 team be?

Wins Above Replacement helps answer questions like this. We can compare the performances of the departed stars and their current counterparts to get at least a rough sense of what might have been. In this post, all stats are from Fangraphs unless otherwise noted.

Marcus Stroman v. Yu Darvish

  • Stroman: 5.32 ERA, 4.20 FIP, 0.5 WAR
  • Darvish: 3.35 ERA, 3.39 FIP, 1.4 WAR
  • Difference: -0.9 WAR

The biggest signing of the offseason for the Cubs, Marcus Stroman’s heavy groundball approach and magnetic presence gave hope to fans looking for a light in the winter darkness. It hasn’t quite worked out that way. He struggled in April but then reeled off five good outings (three of which were quality starts) in May before the wheels came off on June 3 in a nine-run debacle against the Redbirds.

Stroman struggled early in the season with his location, but he’s also been the victim of some bad luck, as the yawning gap between his ERA and FIP indicates. Before he hit the IL with shoulder inflammation, his fastball velocity was down about a half MPH, but his slider velo was up. There may have been a yellow flag or two, but no red ones.

Stroman, Miley, Smyly … all guys with histories of shoulder or elbow trouble signed to fairly team-friendly contracts. It isn’t working out so far: that’s why they call it “gambling.”