Chicago Cubs must consider second-tier starting pitchers


The Chicago Cubs are reportedly interested in free agent starting pitcher Jon Lester and they are very much involved in his pursuit.

According to sources, the Cubs made an offer that was well north of $135 million but that might not be enough to lure the coveted left-hander. With the Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants listed as some of the teams that have expressed interest in the 30-year-old, the Cubs might not be able to sign Lester.

If that’s the case, what should the Cubs to improve a pitching staff that definitively needs an upgrade? Some move needs to be made if the organization is looking to field a competitive team for the upcoming 2015 season.

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The front office could choose to acquire one of the top arms via trade and there are several starters that are scheduled to test the open market after next year. The likes of David Price – who’s been constantly linked with Chicago – Jordan Zimmermann, Johnny Cueto, Rick Porcello and even former Cub Jeff Samardzija will all be in the last year of their current deals and Chicago’s abundance of prospects might allow them to pick up a top arm to anchor their staff, although it’s unlikely the front office trades top talent for a rental.

If the team decided to keep all its young players and test the free agent market, then Max Scherzer and James Shields are the two top arms that would be left unsigned. Scherzer is likely to command a hefty deal while Shields might be able to sign for a cheaper amount but his age and recent playoff performances could be a red flag towards the future.

If none of them land at the Friendly Confines, than the Cubs could try to pick up one of the “second tier” pitchers that might not be considered as top arms but have a track record worthy of consideration. Guys like Justin Masterson – who’s coming off a down year with both the Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Cardinals – Brandon McCarthy – who spent last year with both the Arizona Diamondbacks and New York Yankees – and even former NL Central foe Francisco Liriano are all said to be available, although in most cases, three-year deals and a compensation pick (for Liriano) might have to be forfeited.

Another interesting option the Cubs could choose is to reunite with Jason Hammel. Hammel was a solid performer last year for Chicago and he was the team’s best pitcher in the first part of the season. He was traded to the Oakland Athletics on July 4 and while he wasn’t able to replicate his numbers in the AL West, he seems motivated to return to the National League and, if he’s healthy, he could give the Cubs solid innings in the middle of the rotation.

Lester is clearly the top pitcher in the open market and by all accounts, the Cubs are expected to be heavily involved in his pursuit. However, if the lefty decides to choose elsewhere, then Chicago will have several other options to improve their staff on their quest to field a better team for the upcoming season. But will they pull the trigger?