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Chicago Cubs: Is the next pitching project already on the staff?

Nov 4, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs relief pitchers Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop during the World Series victory parade on Michigan Avenue. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 4, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs relief pitchers Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop during the World Series victory parade on Michigan Avenue. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports /
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On Friday afternoon, the Chicago Cubs extended Pedro Strop through 2018, with a team option for 2019. Could this be an indicator of the team’s plans moving forward? Do they already have a plan in place?

It’s pure speculation to take the extension of a player–in this case the Chicago Cubs’ Pedro Strop–and predict the future of a team’s offseason. But it’s possible that Strop’s extension might be an indicator of Jake Arrieta‘s future. The two came over from Baltimore together in the lopsided deal that sent Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger to the O’s. Is 2018 going to be their final year together as teammates?

There’s been plenty of conversation about Arrieta and his desire to stay in Chicago. And there’s also been plenty about the unlikelihood of that happening with his agent Scott Boras on the prowl. The emotional fan in me wants to say “sign Arrieta and sign him now”. Not just because he’s been one of the best pitchers in the NL in the last few years–and he has–but because we don’t know when we’ll get lucky like that again. Or do we? I mean, there’s no way we hit the jackpot like that again. Right?

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Feldman, Paul Maholm, Jason Hammel, Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks These are the starters the Cubs have hit it big with. Then you have guys like Strop and Hector Rondon–a Rule 5 pick from the Indians–that have proven the Cubs have a consistent formula, sort of. So do the Cubs, for the lack of a better example, have the next “Arrieta” on staff already?

The Cubs have made it part of their philosophy to add a lot of pitchers over the course of a season and see who sticks. It’s paid off with guys like Clayton Richard, Fernando Rodney and Trevor Cahill–albeit on a short term basis. With the number of arms they are heading into camp with, it seems that thinking is still in place–and maybe the results will follow once again.

It’s the people you put in place to do the job

There are a couple of factors at work here when looking at this system. The first is the coaching staff. Chris Bosio, Mike Borzello and Lester Strode have done amazing things with the pitchers that have come through Chicago. Now, it’s not as if these players that have come through have been talentless. Anything but. And that’s where the scouting comes into play.

The Cubs have proven to be at the head of the class when it comes to their scouting ability over the past five or so years. As teams have given up on players because of age, inconsistency, etc., the Cubs have swooped in and made some stellar pickups in recent years. The foresight to see the potential in Rondon after Tommy John. The ability to recognize Arrieta’s ability was simply a tweak of his mechanics and a cutter away. The two sides have worked well together to field quite an array of pitchers since Theo Epstein and Co. got into town.

Former talent in the wings

The picked up Eddie Butler and Brett Anderson. Neither stands out in the grand scheme of things, but you likely felt the same way about Arrieta. For Butler, it’s about realizing his potential. The change in scenery and the supporting cast around him might be enough to turn his career around. For Anderson, it’s a matter of health. And aside from a few missed starts, the Cubs didn’t have a starter miss time on the DL. Again, it’s about the system more than you think.

With the money the Cubs spent–or in this case saved–this offseason by keeping it simple, there’s potential to get a pitcher that could be the future of the rotation. There were plenty of names thrown around in the past few years including Chris Archer, Matt Moore and Jake Odorizzi. Players with several years of control still. That was a big part of the reason the Cubs acquired Mike Montgomery. Whether or not you believe he’s ready to be a starter, he will at least be a Cub through 2022. Plenty of time for that to develop.

Next: Cubs extend Strop through 2018

I do believe the Cubs will sit down with Arrieta and see if they can work out a deal. But if they get to the All-Star break and he’s pitching well, Boras will be out for blood, but the Cubs aren’t going to bite. It’ll be time to see what memories he makes as a Cub at that point and then move on. And if the front office is already thinking that, the trade deadline might be the exciting “offseason” for the Cubs.

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