Chicago Cubs: Why does the front office seem so lost on pitching?


Theo & Co. have assembled some great hitters, but why does pitching seem to be such a struggle?

The Chicago Cubs have assembled a group of some of the best young hitters in the game today. Through trades, the draft, the brain trust of Jason McLeod, Jed Hoyer, and Theo Epstein were putting together a system of offense before it was cool. Back before they were “wrong” for taking Kyle Schwarber before a list of pitchers ranked higher. How has that worked out? This year’s pick Ian Happ is quickly moving up the list. These guys know good hitters when they see them. 

When you start looking at the pipeline, you’ll see that the Cubs do have some decent pitching prospects making their way up. Carl Edwards Jr. (No. 4, is always the first mentioned, but they also have Pierce Johnson (No. 8, and Duane Underwood (No. 5, to name a few others. And the acquisitions of Jason Hammel, and more specifically Jake Arrieta have played a key role in the Cubs success. But some other moves for pitching have to leave you scratching your head.

The first two that come to mind are Edwin Jackson and Jose Veras. While they are finally rid of both of them, a good chunk of change went into those two. If you already don’t, realize how lucky you are to be a fan of a franchise that can afford to afford mistakes like that. Some franchises just can’t “throw away” that sort of money.

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Jackson was one of the first signings of the new regime, and I often believe they wanted to make some sort of splash–and Jackson was the result. The idea was he could be an innings eater, and was young enough to still be a part of the team when the Cubs turned it around. Turns out he did nothing but hinder them, and they finally sent Jackson on his way. The man seems like a true professional, and accepted responsibility for his performance–but that’s what matters.

Veras imploded almost immediately after being signed to become the Cubs closer. In just 12 games he posted an 8.10 ERA, blew two saves, and aggravated every Cubs fan possible. Epstein quickly realized his mistake and dealt with it as they DFA’d Veras, eventually giving him his outright release.

Recently, it’s been a question of relief pitching questions. Granted, good relievers are a tough commodity. If you don’t have them when you start the year, you aren’t likely to find them in August and September. The Cubs have chosen reclamation projects and cast offs in the hopes they will find the form many of them used to have. In their defense, Jason Motte has been very good, and his loss has hurt.

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Like Soriano, Rodney has had his successes–and also had them with Joe Maddon. Both relievers put up solid seasons in Tampa Bay while Maddon was at the helm. But now it seems like the Cubs are grasping at straws to catch the past glory of these two. Soriano imploded in Washington, Rodney did the same in Seattle. There’s still a chance one or both could be a help down the stretch as innings rack up on relievers. September becomes a safety in numbers month for pitching staff’s.

Overall you can’t really say the Cubs’ front office hasn’t done an amazing job building this franchise from doormat to a possible perennial contender. But looking at this regime and pitching you realize that the great eye for hitters is offset by partial blindness in the eye for pitching.

But take all this with a grain of salt. The Cubs are playing meaningful games in September with very good odds to see the postseason–at least the Wild Card game, which I don’t consider making the playoffs if you lose. Just my opinion on that.

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