With John Lackey in the fold, the Chicago Cubs have a presumptive starting rotation of Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, Lackey, Jason Hammel, and Kyle Hendricks. With Adam Warren and Trevor Cahill in the fold, the Cubs also have four swing types – together with Travis Wood and Clayton Richard – that could be starting pitchers if necessary.
I wouldn’t say the Cubs’ rotation is crowded just yet (injuries occur, plans change, etc.), but I would say they are fairly well covered. Indeed, sufficiently covered that, absent a must-do trade for a young, cost-controlled starter (whose presence would be as much or more about 2017 and beyond, as it is about 2016), I’m primarily interested in seeing the Cubs go after a depth/reclamation type at this point. Adding another free agent starter is probably not going to be a focus of the Cubs’ remaining resources, nor should it.
I say all of that as a precursor to sussing out an odd inclusion in Nick Cafardo’s latest column. Therein, among many other things worth checking out, Cafardo asserts that free agent righty Yovani Gallardo could be the next starting pitcher to sign, though teams are looking to get him for a bargain. Cafardo wonders if Gallardo could land a deal like the three-year, $48 million deal Scott Kazmir got from the Dodgers (a deal that, you should remember, came with an opt-out after the first year), which I wouldn’t call a bargain at this stage in the offseason for Gallardo, who – unlike Kazmir – is attached to draft pick compensation.
One of those potentially bargain-hunting teams, according to Cafardo? The Cubs.
To be sure, consistent with everything I said up top, I could see the Cubs (who’ve already signed two qualified free agents, and have thus seen the “cost” associated with signing another qualified free agent drop, relatively-speaking) signing a guy like Gallardo if he had to settle for a steal of a contract. But a three-year, $48 million deal is not what I would have in mind in that situation. For what it’s worth, the FanGraphs crowdsourcing project pegged Gallardo at four-years and $54 million earlier this offseason.
Instead of a deal like that or 3/$48M, a two-year, $20 to $25 million deal is more in the range of a you-can’t-really-pass-this-up type steal – the kind of deal that’s so good, you just sign it, add the asset, and then figure out how to make it all work later. Short of that level of bargain, I’m not sure Gallardo makes much sense for the Cubs.
Not 30 until next month, Gallardo is among the younger free agent starters out there, but with a lot of mileage on his arm already and a rapidly-declining fastball (in terms of velocity), I’m not sure how far the age angle is going to get him. Furthermore, although Gallardo made 33 starts last year, he pitched in just 184.1 innings.* That’s barely five and a half innings per start. Oof.
If something more specific on Gallardo were to pop up, we could spend a little more time digging into his virtues as an addition and the substantial risks of decline that loom, but right now, all we have is the Cubs mentioned as a possibility in one report, together with four other teams (Orioles, Blue Jays, Pirates, Royals).
The Cubs were briefly attached to Gallardo back at the Trade Deadline, though the Rangers opted not to deal him. Maybe there is still some interest. But, as I said, given the construction of the roster, it’s hard to see the Cubs being especially aggressive in adding another arm like Gallardo through free agency. If a bargain appears, then maybe.
*(You could argue that a short-outing starter like Gallardo would be a unique fit for the Cubs, given their plethora of super utility pitchers, but, in general, you want starters who have the ability to go deep if necessary. You’d only “target” short-outing starters if it meant you could get them at an undervalued price. So, again, I circle back: sure, if it’s a crazy bargain.)