Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

cuba featureIn an offseason full of interesting available pitching options, both in free agency and trade, the Chicago Cubs went for a short-term, sure-and-steady type (John Lackey), a medium-term swing arm with some upside (Adam Warren), and a familiar, younger, short-term, limited-upside type (Trevor Cahill). Each makes a lot of sense for a team in a competitive window, especially given that the latter two can pitch effectively out of the bullpen. Even if force myself to be concerned about the Cubs’ rotation, I’m rather pleased with what the Cubs have done on the pitching side.

But the one type of pitcher you would ideally have liked to see the Cubs acquire this offseason is a younger, long-term-controlled arm with a lot of upside. That type of pitcher could help the team not only in 2016, but beyond, when a need might develop, given the extreme youth of the Cubs’ best pitching prospects. The trick there, of course, is that pitchers like that aren’t really available in free agency – no matter how robust a given free agent class might be – and the cost to acquire pitchers like that in trade this year has been enormous.

Of course, what if one just became available in free agency? Interested?

I don’t want to get you too excited, because opinions on Cuban righty Yaisel Sierra are likely to be divergent, but most agree that the raw ability is significant, and thus the upside is real. And now Sierra, 24, is officially a free agent, according to Jesse Sanchez.

Sierra pitched for scouts back in October, and was impressive, as you can read here at and BA. He’s got a mid-90s fastball, a slider, and a developing changeup. It seems most believe he’s got great stuff (and obviously has plus velocity), but, as is often the case with younger, live arms, he needs to work on his command, especially if he’s going to start in the big leagues.

Because of his age and experience, Sierra is not subject to IFA restrictions, which means he’s just a plain ‘ole free agent. The Cubs have no relative advantage in his pursuit, and there will be a significant number of interested teams.

As I noted above, when we talk about the Cubs acquiring a young, controllable starter, we do so acknowledging that the impact is as much about 2017 and beyond (maybe more so) as it is about 2016. To that end, Sierra makes a whole lot of sense for a team like the Cubs, currently in a competitive window, not necessarily needing Sierra to be ready right away in 2016, but having questions about the rotation after 2016/17. A team like the Cubs could afford to sign Sierra – assuming they can afford him in the traditional sense – and let him work in the minors with an eye toward reaching the big leagues in 2017 (or sooner, if he shows he’s ready).

What will Sierra cost? Well, it’s pretty tough to peg, given how much projection is involved in determining his future value. Projectable Cuban righty Raisel Iglesias got a seven-year, $27 million deal from the Reds last year, and that’s starting to look like a great deal now that Iglesias has shown he can start. Perhaps, then, Sierra’s bidding will start in the same range – a steep price for a guy who essentially amounts to a 24-year-old prospect.

Now that Sierra is a free agent, it’ll be very interesting to see if we hear about involved teams. Presumably, Sierra will want to be signed in advance of Spring Training so he can work out with his new team and try to make the big league club (and teams will want the same). This all comes against the backdrop of a huge wave of Cuban talent, not all of whom have been officially declared free agents yet. Could that slow up Sierra’s market? Would a team like the Cubs have the money to be aggressive on Sierra, but not on other IFA talent like Lazarito? And what of the Cubs’ reported interest in several other Cuban prospects?

It’s a good time to be heavily involved in the international market, for sure, whether that means going after a true free agent like Sierra, or after other IFA prospects (on whom the Cubs may have an advantage, since they’ve already blown out their IFA pool).

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