When you have a team that lost over 100 games in a season, there are obviously holes to fill all over the roster. That’s the case with the Chicago Cubs. But this winter, there is one spot that they’ll be focusing on getting filled more than any third base or centerfield: their pitching staff.
The Cubs head into the season with just two starters guaranteed a spot, in Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija. Garza could still be traded, but that likely won’t happen until July. Travis Wood is also in the mix for a starting spot, and could end up as the fourth or fifth guy.
Beyond that, the Cubs have very little to work with. The lack of starting pitching means that they’ll be spending the offseason looking to upgrade their depth, both in the rotation and in the bullpen. The Cubs’ need for starting pitching was apparent immediately after they traded Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm. Once Garza went down, the starting five was a disaster.
Yet, most names that have been linked to the Cubs don’t represent a long-term solution. The Cubs head into the offseason with the same strategy as last year. Their goal is to find guys on the cheap, hope that they build up their trade value, and spin them off to a contender at the deadline.
To a point, that’s a good strategy. But that point should have been last July. At some point, the Cubs are going to have to start building a rotation. There are options out there for them to consider in the long-term. But will they actually look at them?
The biggest names that have been linked to the Cubs early this offseason have been Brandon McCarthy and Shaun Marcum. Both are solid pitchers, but McCarthy has struggled with his health throughout his career, and there’s absolutely no way we’d see Marcum on the North Side after the trade deadline. They’ve also reportedly made an offer to Francisco Liriano. Same situation as McCarthy.
About the only guy out on the free agent market who would represent a long-term solution is Anibal Sanchez. And the Cubs likely don’t want to approach his reported $90 million price tag, as much as they probably should. Meaning if the Cubs do choose to look to look for a rotation mainstay, it will have to come via trade.
In the past week or so, we’ve seen names like Trevor Bauer and Jeremy Hellickson emerge as pitchers who may be available. Whether they think they have the chips or not, these need to be the type of guys that the Cubs move in on quickly and aggressively.
Do guys like Marcum serve a purpose? Absolutely. But the Cubs need to start at looking to acquire a starter or two that is going to be around when this team is ready to contend, especially if they plan to deal Garza next year as well. However, don’t expect the Cubs’ brass to deviate from the plan. Names like Bauer might be nice and get fans excited, but expect to see Marcum or McCarthy in programs next season, at least until July, when they’ll be replaced with names like Brooks Raley.
As frustrating as that sounds.