The Cubs Have "Started Talking About Names" of the Pitchers They Want to Target This Offseason

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The Cubs Have “Started Talking About Names” of the Pitchers They Want to Target This Offseason

Chicago Cubs

And so it begins? According to Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy, who has a very important voice within the organization, the Chicago Cubs are already getting down to business ahead of what figures to be a busy and particularly active offseason.

Specifically, the Cubs are discussing names to target.

Via Patrick Mooney at The Athletic:

The Cubs don’t have the same track record of developing pitchers as the Rays or Guardians, but they also don’t have the same financial limitations as those small-market franchises. The Cubs don’t have to choose between signing an All-Star shortstop or a No. 1 starter, because they can do both and still have room for complementary moves within a big-market budget for baseball operations.

“We’ve started talking about names,” Hottovy said. “We’ve talked about things that we may want to do. But we really need to get through the season, evaluate where we feel like guys can go next year, and then how we can target guys that kind of fit into the mix.” …

As one of the lead architects of this pitching infrastructure, Hottovy believes the internal improvements this season will be a selling point: “When we start getting into the free-agent information, the digging, the talking through what we want to do, all the things that we’ve done with these young guys is going to play a factor into what we try to do. Hopefully, (people) will see that we’re heading in the direction that we want to go, and that they would want to go.”

Hottovy also reminded folks that the Cubs cannot presume they’ll get 150-180 innings from every single young pitcher they are developing. You want to have others available to make sure the young guys aren’t the exclusive hinge point for your success or failure.

From where I stand, the Cubs can pen Marcus Stroman and Justin Steele into the 2023 rotation and then literally no one else. And that’s not really a “PROBLEM” right now, because of their high quality depth (Kyle Hendricks, Adrian Sampson, Hayden Wesneski, Keegan Thompson, Adbert Alzolay, Javier Assad, and Caleb Kilian (the latter five of whom came in for a specific mention from Hottovy). Still, you’d feel a whole lot better if they (a) turned that group of two sure-things into three and (b) added to the front, pushing everyone down a peg.

To put that even more bluntly: The Cubs *cannot* be counting on Keegan Thompson, Caleb Kilian or Hayden Wesneski next season to be 180-inning starters. All three will get their innings. And anyone one of three might pop! It’s not difficult to imagine. But that needs to be gravy on top, not the main course, itself.

In fact, I’d argue they should (and probably will) add another veteran starter in addition to a front-end arm. Maybe even retaining Drew Smyly, specifically. But even without that type, this would be a MUCH more comfortable starting point for the Cubs chances to compete next season (even Sampson, himself, has talked about needing ten names):

1. Free Agent/Trade top-of-the-rotation type
2. Marcus Stroman
3. Justin Steele
4. Kyle Hendricks
5. Hayden Wesneski
6. Keegan Thompson
7. Adrian Sampson
8. Adbert Alzolay
9. Javier Assad
10. Caleb Kilian

Plus there is upper-minors prospect depth from there.

But getting that frontline starting pitcher at number one is much easier said than done.

Carlos Rodon will be available, but he comes with injury risks and will be attached to draft pick compensation. Kodai Senga, with his mid-90s fastball and wipeout forkball, certainly has the profile of a pitcher that can make the transition to MLB, but you never know for sure how that’ll go. Jacob deGrom and Justin Verlander are both great, but they’re also both older, injury-prone, and may not see the Cubs as their best ring chance this late in their career.

Of course, if Hottovy is right that pitching for the Cubs is “a place guys want to be,” maybe the sales pitch won’t be that difficult.

The only remaining issue, then, is the Cubs spending what it takes to reel one of these guys in. And on that front, I’m sorry to all the naysayers, I just don’t share your concerns. Not yet, anyway. Because while I have disagreed with the Cubs’ limited spending in some of the recent offseasons, I think there’s a lot more nuance than your average Tweet will allow.

Sometimes, the Cubs were flat out wrong for not opening up the checkbook. Sometimes, there was a reasonable excuse (the pandemic, the contractural timelines of players on the roster, maybe a legitimate lack of belief in certain players). And sometimes, they did spend some money and it has gone largely under-discussed (like last offseason: Marcus Stroman, Seiya Suzuki, Yan Gomes, Wade Miley, Drew Smyly, Chris Martin, David Robertson, Mychal Givens).

The better “question,” in my opinion, is whether the Cubs are willing to spend on a top starting pitcher *and* that middle of the order bat they desperately need, and to whom they’re already been consistently attached in the free agent shortstop market. For his part, as you see in the quoted section above, Mooney seems to believe the answer is yes, the Cubs can and should do both. I think we all agree there.

But that’s where we’ll force the Cubs to put the money where their mouth is before giving them any benefit of the doubt.

If you’re looking for more on Kodai Senga and Carlos Rodon, the two most attractive options among the realistic targets, we’ve got you covered.

Kodai Senga and the Cubs

First, here’s a look at why Senga makes sense for the Chicago Cubs this offseason.

And here’s our latest report of the Cubs actual interest in signing him.

Carlos Rodon and the Cubs

And here’s some of latest reporting on the Cubs mutual interest with Carlos Rodon (and Trea Turner, in case you missed it).

Brett Taylor contributed to this post.

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Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami