The Cubs primary offseason questions will revolved around which free agent(s) they consider signing and which position player(s) they consider trading. In terms of dollars spent, potential and immediate impact, and/or long-term considerations, that’s were the juice is.
But there is one other potentially significant storyline that folks outside the organization are wondering about: trading Jose Quintana.
- As of today, the Cubs rotation consists of Yu Darvish, Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, and Jose Quintana. Those four are in the rotation so long as they’re on the roster. But of course that last part can always change – at least with respect to Quintana – and that discussion popped up at MLB Trade Rumors. You can check out the post out for the full context, and it’s interesting to see a third party view that there’s value there in a one-year Quintana deal. But one thing that stood out to me were the lack of rotation options if the Cubs do deal Quintana.
- We should all be comfortable with Hendricks and Darvish near the top of the Cubs rotation next year, but I’m really not sure what to expect out of Lester. So with Cole Hamels likely on his way out the door and Tyler Chatwood most likely settling into the swing role, the Cubs are left with, what, 2.5 starting pitchers for next season if the move Quintana? That’s less than ideal. Stephen Strasburg may become available (opt out) and Gerrit Cole is arguably the most enticing free agent starter in years, but if the Cubs choose to go that route, they’ll be left with 3.5 legit starts and a MUCH bigger bill to foot.
- Point being: trading Quintana might seem wise on paper, but the hole he’ll leave behind could be tough to fill – and you likely won’t get someone with his upside (even if you don’t believe he can reach it) who costs only $11.5M. I don’t know where I land on this yet, but I do think the “the Cubs should trade Q to do other stuff” narrative needs to be approached with some caution.
- Of course, this entire conversation isn’t unrelated to the Cubs impending decision on free agent Cole Hamels. Hamels had an All-Star caliber first-half in 2019, before an oblique injury derailed his second-half. And at 36-years-old, it’s fair to question what he’s got left in the tank. Just don’t tell him that (emphasis mine): “I don’t want to put that in the back of teams’ heads of how I finished,” Hamels said. “I think I’m capable of what I was able to do in the first half – that’s who I am – and I can still get those good results for hopefully [the Cubs], if they consider that.”
- Should the Cubs consider re-signing Hamels? I tend to lean no, because I’m not desperate to gamble 40% of the Cubs rotation on two southpaws over the age of 35, but Hamels was legitimately excellent before his oblique injury and would clearly like returning to the Cubs: “Obviously I do very well at Wrigley, so I hope that’s a consideration – I love to be able to pitch there ….” The rotation is obviously going to be a big point of order this winter.
- (Related: We tend to think the qualifying offer to Hamels is not going to happen.)
- Pedro Strop has a similar desire to re-sign with the Cubs: “I gotta say the Cubs are a priority [in free agency] and I’ll work with them first and see if we can work something out.” But for as much as I love Strop and everything he’s contributed to this city, I’m just not sure I believe he’s still got “it” left. We’ve discussed how the Cubs might bring back Strop here.
- On the offensive side of free agency, Brett has gotten us all excited about Japanese center fielder Shogo Akiyama and his particularly enticing skillset, but he doesn’t come without questions. Recent analysis out of Japan indicates that Akiyama’s speed and defensive abilities have both been in steady decline, while his contact – typicallys frequent and hard – has drifted into the ground more and more. Fortunately, I believe that his expectedly modest price tag may still be worth the gamble, because even as a fourth outfielder/part-time starter, he could still be an upgrade for the outfield-needy Cubs.
- The Yankees were already going to be big players in the starting pitching market, and this only strengthens it:
Per Brian Cashman: Tanaka had arthroscopic surgery to remove bone spurs in his elbow; Voit surgery to repair core muscle injuries; Hicks will have Tommy John on Oct. 30. 8-10 months rehab.
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) October 24, 2019
- The Yankees are reportedly far more likely to pursue Gerrit Cole than Anthony Rendon (fine, because I prefer the Cubs to prioritize the latter, all things considered), but rumor has it Cole strongly prefers a West Coast team, of which the Yankees are not.
- Speaking of the West Coast, AJ Cassavell writes that the Padres “aren’t married to [Luis] Urias at second base,” next season and that there’s “a good chance the Padres will shop” him this offseason. The Cubs have an opening at second base and have dealt successfully with the Padres in the recent past.
- Urias, 22, was recently a big-time prospect (top-3 in a very good Padres system), but hasn’t yet put it together at the big league level (career 79 wRC+ through 83 games). He absolutely crushed it in the minors, including a .315/.398/.600 slash line through 73 Triple-A games this season, and he’s so young. With that said, if the Padres are open to selling low, I’d absolutely hope the Cubs would try to buy. Urias has his flaws, but the ceiling is still quite high, he doesn’t really strike out all that much (21.9% for his career), and if it did work out, the Cubs would gather some MUCH needed cost control from a very young player at a position of need. Perhaps it would be a gamble, but that’s the sort of gamble the 2020 Cubs should be willing to take.
- The Pirates intend to keep their best trade chip, Starling Marte, this offseason. Obviously, keeping him means the Pirates are that much better in 2020, but (1) they are not the biggest obstacle standing in between the Cubs and first place and (2) he wouldn’t likely be traded to the Cubs anyway. Impacts the outfield market, though.
- And finally, are you interested in a little bargain hunting? MLB Trade Rumors has a list of pitchers and hitters who’ve recently elected free agency after being outrighted off a 40-man roster during or after the season.