Chicago Cubs Rumors: Is Jonathan Niese a rotation answer?


With the Chicago Cubs’ front office publicly stating that adding starting pitching depth is a top priority, what do recent rumors surrounding the New York Mets’ Jon Niese mean?

The Chicago Cubs are reeling after dropping the final two games of their series against the Los Angeles Dodgers and suffering a sweep at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals over the weekend.

Starting pitching outside right-handers Jake Arrieta and Jason Hammel has been shaky for the Cubs, whose rotation boasts a 3.78 earned run average this season in 74 games.

The team’s prized offseason acquisition, lefty Jon Lester, has not pitched up to expectations in his first season in the Windy City and the staff’s back-end rotation has been a game of musical chairs, including the likes of Tsuyoshi Wada, Travis Wood, Kyle Hendricks and Donn Roach, among others.

The Cubs’ rotation has been a weakness throughout much of this rebuild, as starters have been dealt for prospects and future pieces. With the club in contention for the first time since the last decade, now is the time for Theo and Jed to pull the trigger.

Getting back to Niese, the New York left-hander has struggled to-date in 2015, as both his FIP (fielding independent pitching) and WHIP have skyrocketed above his career averages.

Last season, he tied a career-best with a 3.40 ERA in 30 starts, pushing 190 innings of work in the process. Thanks to an abysmal offense, his win-loss record didn’t reflect the work he turned in for the Mets, as he came in at 9-11.

Niese will earn roughly $7 million in 2015 and he’s set for a $2 million raise next season. New York controls his future beyond that with $11 million team options in both ’17 and ’18 with buyouts worth half-a-million in both seasons.

Wada is the only left-handed member of the Chicago Cubs rotation and he’s currently sidelined with an injury, leaving Hendricks and Roach at the back-end of the staff.

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Roach struggled in his season debut against St. Louis and Hendricks has been sporadic all season-long, leaving some to scratch their heads when thinking of what other internal options are in left in the cards.

Such thoughts bring us right back to where we started this conversation: trade rumors and Niese.

Along with the Cubs, the Los Angeles Dodgers are rumored to be in on the New York southpaw, after suffering a bevy of pitching injuries already this season. However, the Cubs may have more pieces that interest the Mets front office.

Niese is a question mark for Chicago, but nonetheless is drawing interest from the Cubs’ front office.

The Mets have long been interested in Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro, but it’s hard to imagine anything close to a straight-up deal involving the two players.

The young infielder is on an incredibly team-friendly deal for the rest of the decade, while Niese is relatively expensive, given his struggles this season. However, even without Castro involved, there’s plenty of potential pieces at-play here that could result in a deal.

With the raw deal involving Edwin Jackson still fresh in memory, Cubs fans may be leery of a pitcher like Niese who has a very up-and-down track record.

However, he may be just what the team needs: a stopgap measure that fills a void until the Chicago Cubs go shopping on the open market this offseason.

Next: Looking back at career of former Cubs closer Rod Beck