At the Winter Meetings, we know that the Cubs were exploring a variety of options to upgrade in the rotation even after signing John Lackey, but those rumors quieted down thanks to the confluence of three things:
(1) The Cubs added Adam Warren in trade, and he’s a cost-controlled, younger pitcher who could theoretically be a very good starter;
(2) The price tags associated with acquiring pitching – particularly the very-alarming Shelby Miller deal – seemed to soar; and
(3) The Cubs grabbed Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward, which not only put the utilization of the remaining resources into question, but also, frankly, simply took the spotlight off of any potential pitching moves.
But there remains the possibility that the Cubs could add pitching by way of trade, something we discussed at length yesterday.
The positional names mentioned (Javier Baez, Jorge Soler) are as familiar to you as the pitching names mentioned (Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Alex Cobb, Jake Odorizzi, Tyson Ross, Kevin Gausman). We know that those arms have been discussed on the trade market, by the Cubs and other teams, and we also know that, generally speaking, the asking prices on young arms this year has been astronomical.
It’s worth reading Sherman’s piece for the broader context, and it’s also worth keeping in mind that what he seems to be relaying is only the external sense about the Cubs in the industry. On that point, though, this is not the first post-Heyward discussion of the Cubs possibly still looking to add pitching by trading young positional talent.
Despite the exploding prices for pitching, both in free agency and in trade, that we saw last week, I remain of the mind that the Cubs are the ones in the catbird seat. Not only do they have a roster that is already so solid, deep, and versatile that they could walk into Spring Training as is and be a favorite to make the playoffs again, but they are among the only teams in baseball known to have quality, cost-controlled, young, high-upside positional talent that they could deal without seriously harming the big league roster. You could probably count on one hand the types of players like that known to be available, and two of them are on the Cubs.
So, then, if the right deal doesn’t come along for pitching – whether that deal involves Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, or prospects (or all of those) – I don’t think the Cubs feel like they have to do anything.I’m going to keep tracking these kinds of rumors, because there is still the possibility that the right deal comes together. Even as strong as the Cubs’ roster is now, nobody’s going to tell you they wouldn’t feel slightly more comfortable with a little more pitching depth (especially if that depth was created by way of adding a young, cost-controlled, middle-to-front-of-the-rotation starter, and bumping everyone else back a spot). The rotation looks very good as is, but it’s one injury to the wrong person away from getting dicey.
Sure, that’s true of almost every rotation in baseball, but not every rotation in baseball is pitching for a team with such a competitive shot as the Cubs. And not every team has the ability to improve their pitching depth without seriously harming some other aspect of the team. On-paper seasons like what’s shaping up for the Cubs in 2016 don’t come around too often, and the front office will have to do every conceivable thing to protect against unforeseen risks, injuries, and underperformances.