Earlier in the week, we talked about the top remaining free agents who’ll get the weight of attention when the lockout ends and there’s a short-term, mad rush to sign players.
Of particular note in that exercise, it became clear that the starting pitching market has thinned considerably. And, while the Cubs arguably don’t *NEED* another sure-fire starting pitcher, it would certainly behoove them to at least get someone in the door who has a shot at giving them meaningful innings. The top free agents remaining – Carlos Rodon, Clayton Kershaw, Yusei Kikuchi, and Zack Greinke – all come with reasons they may not fit with, or be seriously pursued by, the Cubs. (Even though I still think they should try to land Rodon on a high-AAV, short-term deal.) But what about the other starting pitchers still out there?
To that end, MLBTR got into – specifically – the remaining free agent starting pitchers on the market, and it’s something worth checking out to get a sense of whom the Cubs might be able to pursue, if not the guys in the top tier.
Among the free agent starting pitchers who performed well as back-end starters in 2021 in one way or another, and who haven’t been discussed much: Wily Peralta, who was quietly excellent for the Tigers in a half season; Kwang-Hyun Kim, who was really good when he was healthy enough to start (albeit in routinely very short outings); Michael Pineda, who was solid when healthy; Johnny Cueto, who was just about exactly league average, which is not a bad thing at the back of the rotation; Drew Smyly, who was about league average by the results, but flashed much better in 2020; and Tyler Anderson, another just-about-league-average type.
There are also upside guys, who are still on the younger side, and who have shown flashes of being really good, but can’t seem to put it together consistently (and/or have health consideration): Matthew Boyd, Vince Velasquez, Chad Kuhl, Mike Foltynewicz, and Jose Urena. None are guys you’d be leaping to sign to big league deals necessarily, but as low/no-risk fliers, I wouldn’t have a problem.
But once again, you go through this exercise, and you realize: the remainder of free agency is probably not going to produce a starting pitcher that will knock your socks off if you’re the Cubs (or a Cubs fan).
It’s possible we’ll see the Cubs try to acquire a short-term arm from a team like the A’s, or maybe they will go after Rodon. But it seems more likely that the Cubs will try to get a bounce-back type from this group and see what they can do. Even if you get 100 useful innings from another guy you add from here, that’s going to help you better optimize how you’re using guys like Alec Mills, Adbert Alzolay, Justin Steele, Keegan Thompson, and maybe Caleb Kilian. You don’t necessarily WANT to have to be in a spot where you’re expecting them to give you 32 starts. You want to be able to massage their role and innings a bit to not only get the most value and production out of them, but also continue their development.
Also? This turns out to be a great way to look backwards and confirm that it is a really good thing the Cubs landed Marcus Stroman and Wade Miley when they did.
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