The Chicago Cubs may currently be in last place within the NL Central division, but one thing that they may be leading the league in is starting pitchers on the trade block. After another impressive start, right-hander Jake Arrieta could now be firmly entrenched on that list as well.
If Arrieta continues to pitch well and the Cubs become very active during the trading frenzy, there could be a glaring void within the team’s starting rotation to finish the year.
Arrieta came out dealing against the Cincinnati Reds, and was perfect through the first six innings. He threw seven total innings, allowing two runs on three hits with nine strikeouts. This effort comes on the heels of Arrieta’s last outing, where he set a career-high with 11 punch outs. That start came following two consecutive scoreless starts for the 28-year old.
In five June starts and 31.2 innings pitched, Arrieta has allowed only four earned runs while fanning an eye-popping 38 batters. With likely one more start in the month, Arrieta could very well make a case as the NL’s Pitcher of the Month.
The run of solid starts could also put Arrieta on the trade block as well. He has plenty of company, joining Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, who the Cubs could also be looking to move. All three right-handers have put up quality numbers for the Cubs.
For Hammel and Arrieta specifically, they were near castoffs that the Cubs took chances on and are now paying off. The moves have fallen in line with past turn-and-burn reclamation projects that Chicago has pulled off to help strengthen its farm system over the last few seasons.
However, the Cubs should eventually entertain the thought of keeping some of these arms with extensions. Arrieta (28), Samardzija (29) and Hammel (31) are all still fairly young. With the success that each are having this year in Cub uniforms, why not sign them to pitch through the rising star era the next few seasons? The Cubs will have the young hitters to put runs on the board, but what they will not have are pitchers to prevent runs.
If the Cubs do move any number of the trio over the next month, they had better get major league-ready arms in return. Otherwise, the rotation to finish out the season could be Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson and three people from the bleachers. The small stable of minor league arms that the Cubs have is not quite ready yet for the next level, and the final few months would simply be auditions for guys like Justin Grimm and Carlos Villanueva. That may not be the best thing for the long-term plan.
It is great to see Arrieta on a roll this month. But with each solid start, the trade rumors start to swirl. This creates questions about the future, with only unclear answers at the moment.
Nick Schaeflein is a Chicago Cubs writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ptchr2424 or add him to your network on Google.