Poor starting pitching to start the year isn’t a big concern… yet. If the Chicago Cubs’ starting staff can’t figure it out come summer, then it might be time to dip into the prospect pool.
The Chicago Cubs have gone from the best team in baseball to one that certainly looks like it has a World Series hangover. Sitting at merely 13-12 coming into today, the team’s inability to hit with runners on base along with their proficiency to give up 1st inning runs has been the early storylines so far this season as a whole, but a troubling trend is starting to form.
The starting pitching, which was the team’s biggest strength last year, is starting to show signs of leakage. Over the past two weeks, the team’s SP ERA ranks second worst in the league at 6.92. The team also has poor marks in HR allowed, SLG and total hits over that time span.
However, Brett Anderson has struggled since joining the team. His ERA sits at a porous 6.23, an alarming sign for a pitcher coming off an injury.
There’s a good chance the Cubs’ staff figures it out as the season progresses, including Anderson, but if they don’t, then it might be time to dip into the farm system and make a move for a starter, both for the short-term and long-term.
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Ian Happ is the prime candidate to provide a viable starter. The No.21 prospect in baseball has lit it up in Triple-A Iowa, hitting eight home runs and 21 RBI in 21 games. He’s also shown in spring training to be more than capable of hitting big league pitching. His stock may not get any higher than it is right now.
As exciting a prospect as Happ is, there’s simply no room for him at the big league level. Able to pay both 2B and the OF, all of those spots are currently filled for the foreseeable future, making him a prime trade candidate.
Now Happ won’t net a frontline starter – his ceiling isn’t as high as, say, Eloy Jimenez – but he could most certainly get a starter that’s better than Anderson. And if the Cubs package Happ with another prospect[s] (Jeimer Candelario, Victor Caratini), the possibilities open up even more.
The 2018 offseason will have all of baseball salivating, as seemingly everyone will be a free agent. Pitchers like Jose Quintana, Dallas Keuchel and Yu Darvish will be up for grabs, and the Cubs will certainly be able to afford them if they choose to pursue them.
However, trading for a cost-controlled starter for minor leaguers the team simply can’t find playing time for could be the best thing the front office can do, especially if the pitching woes continue into the summer.
Packaging Happ, Candelario and perhaps Caratini would net an above-average starter that the Cubs could use not only this season but next season. Candelario, in particular, is playing extremely well too; who says no?
Lester and Hendricks are the only starters guaranteed to be on the team next year. The Cubs need to address this problem while their championship window is wide open, sooner rather than later. Tomorrow, our Nicholas Blazek will make his case for why the Cubs need to hang on to the talented Happ.