Now that the NFL season is over, everyone can now finally shift all of their attention to their favorite baseball team. For me, that focus never ends, I am always looking on what can the Chicago Cubs do to improve from last year. I’m reading rumors, watching potential free agency, log jams with teams and who could be moved from those teams and what their needs would be and do we have that need.
Going into this off season, we all knew we needed that front line ace to lead our staff. Thankfully we got our wish with Jon Lester. He is now the leader of what I see as a very underrated starting pitching staff. Having Lester as our No.1 option now lets Arrieta slide right into the No. 2 spot where I see him really thriving at. At No. 3, you can make a case for either Kyle Hendricks or Jason Hammel, either one you pick the other will fall in nicely to the No. 4, where I guess probably Hendricks will go starting out given the experience Hammel has and not wanting to add more pressure on a young up and coming starting pitcher who has potential to be a middle of the rotation starter.
Where it gets interesting to me is the No. 5, a spot where a lot of teams and fans may not give all that much attention to, but my personal opinion, your #5 needs to be an innings eater so you can give your bullpen a potentially well needed rest. Looking at the Cubs roster to date, we have a few options in Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson, and Tsuyoshi Wada.
Will Wood bounce back to the All-Star pitcher from two years ago? Hopefully, but you can’t bank on it. Jackson, I wish I could say maybe with Maddon leading the way, that he can bounce back, but I’ve used too many “what if’s” with him and I think I may be on empty with those hopes and dreams. Wada showed some promise, but maybe we need him in the bullpen.
This is where I like to look out there on other teams and wonder about who we could add via trade or maybe free agency. James Shields being the biggest name out there to me now doesn’t seem like a good fit. Originally, I had him on my list of who I wanted on the Cubs, but with time passing, you hear a lot about how much he’ll cost and at 33 years old and with an average of over 200 innings pitched in his career, he is very similar to Justin Verlander and look at how he’s been for Detroit the last few seasons.
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Justin Masterson would have been a nice addition and my reason for saying that is this; look at the Cubs recent history with veteran pitchers who are coming off injuries or off years and how they can get that guy to bounce back and be a valuable piece, whether it be staying on the team or bringing in valuable prospects for our future. My opinion, Boston cashed in and may benefit from it.
Cole Hamels would be nice, I think we’ll all agree with that, but at what cost? Would losing Addison Russell and C.J. Edwards plus others be worth it? I say no. I say with the starting pitching we have and the lack of what is available right now in free agency and the trade market, I say we stay put unless Washington makes Jordan Zimmerman available and not at an unreasonable price. If come July, we are legit in the hunt for a wild card and can make a move at the right price, it might be worth it, but right now, no. I’d rather see an arm or two added to the pen and maybe another bat with some pop off the bench be added.
Looking at who is available in free agency, Joba Chamberlain and Mike Adams pop out to me. Chamberlain adds that unpredictability factor which is fun and also can be nerve wracking. Early in the season with Detroit he showed some nice flashes of what the Yankees always knew they had but he did slow down in the 2nd half of the season.
Mike Adams I think is the safer option. He is a veteran pitcher with a lot of National League experience, where Chamberlain has only pitched in the AL. None of his stats really jump out at you, but he’s consistent and he’s a veteran who’s been around and could help mentor the young guys. Both of these guys will probably get 1 year deals, with Chamberlain asking for more money. One last option would be Phil Coke, who would be someone that could be effective to throw in against left handed batters.
With the time of season we are at and the names that are left, its hard to really get behind spending much, if any more money on anything. I’d like to go into spring training and see what we have and see what young guy can rise up to the challenge and make a case for himself to be on the opening day roster. There is a lot of relief pitching available, not all will be signed up between now and April, so if needed we could add a veteran without much trouble. I’d like to see us go in and try to be as good as we can be, challenge for one of the Wild Card spots and not go away from the original plan.
The off season in 2016 has a list of great starters who could be available and with a great showing this year, we will be a very attractive destination for one of those arms to call home.