The Need for Pitching Depth Lingers for the Cubs and Other Bullets

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The Need for Pitching Depth Lingers for the Cubs and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs

I hope folks had a solid weekend, though if you were hoping for exciting conference championship football games yesterday, you were disappointed by two laughers. With the launch of The Ten-Yard Line, I’m necessarily getting more aggressively back into football again – and I’m not looking to rip the sport – but I couldn’t help but think immediately about the Cubs’ playoff run: despite being the clear best team in baseball, they still had to win three very exciting series to win it all. That was good for baseball, even though it highlights what a crapshoot the playoffs are (especially when compared to some other sports). That makes for a much more exciting postseason overall, doesn’t it? Or does the fact that every football game is win-or-go-home make up for it?

  • Last week, a rumor/speculation/suggestion thingy popped up connecting the Cubs to free agent lefty Brett Anderson. As I noted in the writeup, there are reasons to like the fit, if you were inclined to like the fit between the Cubs and Tyson Ross (who, by the way, it turns out might not pitch in the big leagues until June). The issues with Anderson are both plentiful and obvious (HEALTH QUESTIONS), but they don’t really detract from what he would be to a team like the Cubs: quality potential starting depth. And if he could be signed on a minor league deal (albeit one that probably gives him an early opt-out if he’s not called up, and pays him a healthy big league salary when he’s called up)? Sounds good to me.
  • … which leads me to a broader discussion about the Cubs’ general lack of starting depth, a frequent topic around these parts this offseason. It’s almost February, and, while that does afford plenty of time to skim some quality off of the remaining free agent pond, it does surprise me as I look back. While I was always on board with Mike Montgomery getting a lot of starts in 2017 – I truly want to know what the Cubs have in him, because the upside is tantalizing and the post-2017 need is significant – I did not expect the Cubs not to add another sure-fire starter by this point. We’ve seen it year after year with this front office by the time January rolls around: you start counting up the clear starting pitchers, and there are more than five. That was true even in the rebuilding years, because the front office knows (1) early Spring injuries almost always happen, and (2) you’re going to need extra starting pitchers throughout the season anyway. This year, there are five clear starting pitchers on the roster. Full stop. There is no “oooh, how are they going to sort out the starts for all these guys?” Ideally, a team in the Cubs’ position (clear contender, best part of the current competitive window is probably this year) would have several excellent pitching prospects at AAA, each with minor league options, who could provide those extra starts on an up-and-down basis. The Cubs don’t have that. So, right now, from where I sit, they’re going to need to bring in the best possible starting pitcher they can on an inexpensive, maybe even minor league, deal. Maybe two guys.* We are staring down the barrel of a nightmare if Jake Arrieta shows up to Spring Training and rolls an ankle running. Or if John Lackey shows up with some lingering shoulder soreness. Or whatever.
  • *(And I have no doubt that trade talks involving cost-controlled starters is still continuing. But, unlike signing a free agent, such a trade cannot be counted on.)
  • MLBTR has the list of the top unsigned free agents, and, interestingly enough in tandem with this conversation, the top guy is Jason Hammel – the very pitcher the Cubs let walk so that he could explore free agency, creating much of this depth question in the first place. (Note, given the background and the timing of the decision, it still made sense at the time. But I’m betting neither side thought they’d be in this place on January 23.) Fifth on the list is Travis Wood, who was rumored to be a potential Cubs re-signing target if they missed out on Tyson Ross. The obvious upside with Wood, in addition to the familiarity and his ability to contribute in non-pitching ways, is that he can move from the rotation to the bullpen and back again as necessary. I know that his splits against righties last year were a nightmare, but that hasn’t always been the case with him.
  • If you missed the terrible news this weekend, Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura, and former big leaguer Andy Marte, were killed in car accidents in the Dominican Republic.
  • A really interesting find over at Baseball is Fun, and incredible to see how different things were in baseball 60 years ago:

  • Happy birthday:

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.