Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Pitching Must Dominate Cubs’ Offseason Plans


The Major League Baseball offseason is officially underway, but the Chicago Cubs have already been busy for weeks. Over the course of the last month, the team announced the signings of new General Manager Carter Hawkins, Assistant GM Ehsan Bokhari, and hitting coach Greg Brown. The new leaders of the team’s front office will be tasked with shaping the start of the next great Cubs rebuild. Brown, on the other hand, will have his hands full with a role that to put it plainly has been a revolving door. The midseason acquisition of Nick Madrigal and return of a healthy Nico Hoerner offer hope and stability for the Cubs lineup, while the makeup of the pitching staff remains a major question.

Hawkins’ Track Record Speaks to Cubs Biggest Need

Carter Hawkins joins the Cubs front office coming off of a 14-year climb through the ranks with the Cleveland Ind– Guardians… Most recently he spent the last four years as Assistant GM. Throughout his tenure in Cleveland, the franchise built a reputation for developing starting pitching at a rate the rest of the league could only dream of. While Cubs fans will always remember the 2016 rotation spearheaded by Corey Kluber, Josh Tomlin, and Trevor Bauer; what the Indians’ rotation has consisted of in recent years is even more impressive.

Despite multiple Cy Young winners being shipped out of town, Cleveland has continued to cycle in more and more winners in their place. Taking a glance at the 2021 rotation, Shane Bieber, Zach Plesac, Aaron Civale, and Triston McKenzie were all drafted and developed by Cleveland. Even more impressive that Bieber, Plesac, and Civale were all selected in the 2016 MLB draft. The Cubs, on the other hand, have struggled mightily identifying pitching through the draft. In 2021, the Cubs received a mere 10 starts from pitchers drafted by the franchise, 9 starts coming from Justin Steele and a spot start from Cory Abbott. Atrocious is the only word that comes to mind when trying to describe the Cubs’ efforts at producing homegrown pitching.

Rebuild Must Be Shaped Pitching

While chatter surrounding big-name bats such as Nick Castellanos, Carlos Correra, and even old friend Javy Baez will likely dominate the Cubs’ Rumor Mill this winter, revamping the rotation will be most critical. Starting pitching has without question held the Cubs back in recent years. Kyle Hendricks has put together a great career, but his 2021 showing proved he needs help at the top of the rotation. As a whole, the Cubs starting pitching produced a 5.27 ERA last season good for 4th-worst in the MLB. Whichever way the Cubs’ rebuild shapes out, its imperative pitching is acquired now, also developed in years to come. President of Baseball Operations, Jed Hoyer, has hinted at more money being available to spend in free agency this year but stressed the team will need to spend wisely.

Free Agent Options

If the Cubs front office is given a green light towards being active in free agency, there are many names to keep an eye on in the starting pitching market.

Most Feasible for Price and Production (2021 stats):

  • Alex Wood (30 years old):  10-4 W-L, 3.83 ERA
  • Anthony DeSclafani (31 years old): 13-3 W-L, 3.17 ERA
  • Jon Gray (30 years old): 8-12 W-L, 4.59 ERA

Big Ticket Spending, Front of Rotation Options:

  • Carlos Rodon (28 years old): 13-5 W-L, 2.37 ERA
  • Robbie Ray (30 years old): 13-7 W-L, 2.84 ERA
  • Marcus Stroman (30 years old): 10-13 W-L, 3.02 ERA

Bonus Low Risk, High Reward:

  • Noah Syndergaard (29 years old): 0-1 W-L 9.00 ERA (Returned from Tommy John in Sept)

UPDATE: The Cubs claimed Wade Miley off waivers.   

It appears the new front office is wasting little time jumping at the chance to upgrade arms. Wade Miley (12-7 W-L, 3.37 ERA) has been claimed off waivers from Cincinnati as the Cubs elect to pick up his 10 million contract option for next season.

Michael Jacobucci
Lifelong Cubs and Bears diehard fan. Indiana born and raised, currently living in Chicago. Sports nerd in my free time.

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