Today, the Chicago Cubs made an option decision so expected that I didn’t include it in yesterday’s option decision write-up. In retrospect, however, I should have mentioned it. Since the Rick Renteria firing news came out literally one minute after I published the option piece, no one saw it anyway, so I really don’t have anyone to apologize to. Take that.
Today, the Chicago Cubs exercised their $1 million option for 2015 on pitcher Jacob Turner (per Bruce Miles). That may sound odd with respect to a 23-year-old pitcher, but Turner had a unique contract, signed out of the draft when he was still in high school. The Cubs technically could have declined the $1 million option on Turner and then reduced his salary from the $1 million he made in 2014 when they renewed his contract (he’s not yet eligible for arbitration), but (1) the maximum they could reduce the salary is 20%, and (2) it’s not worth being jerks just to save $200,000. And, arguably, Turner merits his $1 million salary, even if it is still a roll of the dice at this point.
To that end, Turner will enter 2015 as one of the Cubs’ many back-end rotation options (though there’s reason to think he could have some very nice upside in the bullpen if he doesn’t win a spot in the rotation). Rushed through the Tigers’ system because of that unique contract, Turner never really got a chance to develop as a young pitcher. The talent is clear, even if the ceiling is more mid-rotation than top-of-the-rotation. He’ll be a very interesting guy to watch in Spring Training after posting a 6.13 ERA, a 4.16 FIP, and a 4.05 xFIP in 113 innings in 2014 between the Cubs and Marlins. In the short time we got to observe him with the Cubs, I saw a guy with a really nice two-seamer, but serious command issues. That didn’t necessarily lead to a lot of walks (don’t confuse “command” of one’s pitches with “control” in the strike zone), but it did very often get him slapped around.
At just 23, you’ve got to believe he can improve. The 6.6% walk rate last year was nice, but the 14.2% strikeout rate is tough to overcome. That’s a whole lot of balls in play, and, to date, Turner has not been an extreme groundball guy (the types that seem to have the most success with a low strikeout rate).
Without any minor league options left, Turner may have to make the team out of Spring Training to stick in the organization. His lack of options was a primary reason the Cubs got him from the Marlins in August for virtually nothing. It’s a little easier to get players through waivers at the end of Spring Training for the purpose of outrighting to the minors, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
For now, you hope that Turner has a great offseason, and puts himself in a good spot to win a rotation job next Spring. If the Cubs add two quality starters, there may actually be only one available job to win.