Chicago Cubs start the offseason with plenty of holes to fill

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

With an empty feeling after a subpar NLCS showing, the Chicago Cubs enter the offseason with more than a handful of needs to fill before Opening Day 2018.

The Chicago Cubs find themselves entering the offseason on similar terms to the way they did two years ago. Like in 2015, vacancies in the starting rotation and bullpen need to be addressed.

After being dominated by 2017’s best team in baseball, the Cubs head home unceremoniously. A surplus of position players and a deficit of pitchers might indicate that controversial trades are on the horizon.

The rotation

Starters Jake Arrieta and John Lackey are set to hit free agency. Neither seem likely to return. Just a day after the Cubs were eliminated from the postseason, a for sale sign was spotted in front of Arrieta’s Chicago house. Both the Cubs and Arrieta have expressed hope in reaching a deal, but Arrieta might be asking for more years and dollars than the Cubs would be willing to agree to.

John Lackey, who turns 39 on Monday, might choose to retire. If he chose to continue playing, he likely could find a deal somewhere. It’s hard to imagine any team, including the Cubs, agreeing to multi-year deal.

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Many starting pitchers are set to hit free agency this offseason, and others have the opportunity to opt-out of their contracts. The Cubs may try to get a free agency signing, but they also have some internal options.

Mike Montgomery made starts throughout the season for the Cubs. He struggled out of the bullpen in the postseason, but he could make for a serviceable back-end of the rotation starter.

Even if Montgomery slides into the rotation in 2018, the Cubs will need at least one more starter. If they can’t find the right fit in the upcoming free agent class, that would force them to make a trade. Such a trade would likely cost the Cubs major league talent.

The bullpen

In the past few postseasons, the bullpens around the league have become more influential in a team’s success. The likes of Andrew Miller and Kenley Jansen have seemed nearly as valuable as a Max Scherzer or Clayton Kershaw. The Cubs are a few moves away from having their bullpen be a force as well.

Cubs’ closer Wade Davis is up for free agency this offseason. The Cubs would like to retain him, but he might get an Aroldis Chapman-esque deal elsewhere. Carl Edwards Jr. seems like a likely candidate for closer of the future. His consistency has been an issue throughout his young career, but the Cubs have every reason to believe in him going forward.

For the Cubs’ bullpen to become as dominant as the top pens around the league, they’ll also need more success from guys they already have. Justin Wilson, who came over at the trade deadline from the Tigers, notably had a tough time since the trade. As a Tiger, he was a dominant middle-inning reliever. Since becoming a Cub, he hasn’t been able to consistently find the strike zone.

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Cubs’ fans will once again have to put their faith in Theo Epstein as he looks to make controversial trades. Major leaguers are once again vulnerable to becoming trade victims. For the Cubs to continue to compete, they’ll need new starting pitching. Not to mention, bullpen help and more success from pitchers up-and-down their current roster.