In recent days, the Chicago Cubs have once again been rumored to be ready to make a big splash in the pitching market – potentially as early as this upcoming offseason.
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The team, which traded right-handers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland earlier this season in exchange for a package highlighted by shortstop prospect Addison Russell, lacks major impact pitching at the big league level and the question of whether or not its needed to field a contender was asked by Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago recently to Cubs GM Jed Hoyer.
"“I think you can,” Hoyer said. “The challenge is that average pitching staff can become below average in a hurry. I think a below-average pitching staff and an above-average offense isn’t going to work. But I do think the team that is probably average in run prevention – and really hits the ball in this day and age – probably does work."
This season, Chicago ranks 24th in all of Major League Baseball with a 3.94 earned run average and 78 quality starts with a rotation that is largely made up of reclamation projects and unproven arms – headlined by former Baltimore Orioles prospect Jake Arrieta, who has emerged as the staff ace in the wake of the Samardzija trade near in early July.
That being said, the 28-year-old still hasn’t even eclipsed the century mark in terms of starts in his big league career. Although he has been impressive in 2014, Arrieta boasts a career earned run average just north of 4.50 to go along with an average record of 11-11 – not exactly the stuff aces are made of. That being said, should Arrieta continue to emerge as a legitimate front-end starter and rookie right-hander Kyle Hendricks maintains his poise, the Cubs, indeed, have the makings of a solid middle-of-the-rotation.
According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, the Cubs are the favorites to land Athletics’ right-hander Jon Lester this offseason, which would add a reliable left-hander to the top of the Chicago rotation for 2015. Lester, who was traded to Oakland by the Boston Red Sox earlier this year, has been stellar for both clubs, pitching to the tune of a 2.41 ERA in 212-plus innings of work. Currently, no Chicago pitcher has eclipsed 170 innings pitched, with Travis Wood leading the pack with 168 2/3 innings tossed – to go along with a less-than-savory 4.86 ERA and 1.520 WHIP.
"“You always want pitching,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria told Mooney. “We’ve got guys that have come through the minor-league system that are pitching well and developing, so we also need to give those guys credit down there for everything they’re doing. We’ve got places to look, to turn to (and) I know that Jed and Theo will do what they need to do in order to continue to put us ahead. We’ll just wait to see what those things are.”"
While arms exist at the minor league level, now is the time – as the plethora of core prospects arrive in Chicago ready to contribute – for Epstein and Hoyer to make a statement and move this club one step closer to competing for a postseason berth.