On Saturday, Jake Arrieta will make his 2014 debut for the Chicago Cubs against their divisional rival, the St. Louis Cardinals. For better production on the mound, the Cubs need Arrieta to have a strong outing in his debut and also going forward for the remainder of the season.
Carlos Villanueva, who was Chicago’s fifth starter during the first few weeks, will move back to a bullpen role. Unfortunately, Villanueva’s results as a starter were not optimal as his ERA was over 6.00 in his four starts. Even if Arrieta was not the guy taking the spot within the rotation, a change was needed to provide a spark for the club.
After joining the Cubs midway through last season, Arrieta did have some good outings, posting a winning record in his nine starts. When healthy, the 28-year old right-hander still has the potential to be a dependable back-end starter on the roster. With the uncertainty around the Cubs’ rotation going forward, Arrieta will have an opportunity to pitch his way toward a long-term role.
Arrieta will be arbitration-eligible for the next few seasons. If he does pitch well, could it lead to an extension with the Cubs, or would he become a potential trade piece? There are still continued trade rumors surrounding Jeff Samardzija, and the early success of Jason Hammel could also brew potential trade possibilities later on.
The minor league depth is not quite there yet in terms of quality arms for the Cubs. The team’s top pitching prospect C.J. Edwards even had a scare with arm soreness earlier this month. The rotation of the future is still very much in doubt for Chicago. Arrieta’s 2014 could become a factor in determining that future.
Nick Schaeflein is a Chicago Cubs writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ptchr2424 or add him to your network on Google.