Chicago Cubs: Jen-Ho Tseng could potentially slot in back-end of rotation

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 14: Jen-Ho Tseng /

The Chicago Cubs’ rotation heading into the 2018 season may not yet be set in stone. If young right-hander Jen-Ho Tseng has a good a good Spring, he could potentially be a back-end starter for the Cubs.

The offseason continues to be painfully slow, and frankly, rather boring. The Chicago Cubs re-signed reliever Brian Duensing. That’s a good move. But it’s not the big signing fans are waiting and hoping for. Looking at you, Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish.

In the meantime, there’s still room to speculate about the makeup of the Cubs’ rotation for this upcoming season. The obvious mainstays are Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana. And Tyler Chatwood figures to be the fourth starter for now. But who slots in at number five? If Jen-Ho Tseng can put together an impressive Spring, he could be the answer.

Young arm with potential

More from Cubbies Crib

The Cubs organization is making a concerted effort to develop more of their own young arms. Headlining that group are right-handers Adbert Alzolay and Jen-Ho Tseng. Though Alzolay had a great 2017 season in the minors, Tseng may be closer to cracking to the Cubs’ roster in 2018.

Last season, in 90 1/3 innings with the AA Tennessee Smokies, Tseng went 7-3 with a 2.99 ERA to go along with 83 strikeouts (8.3 SO/9). With the Triple-A Iowa Cubs, he went 6-1 with a 1.80 ERA over 55 innings pitched. Tseng also had a brief stint with the major league ball club last season, making his MLB debut on September 14 against the New York Mets.

Right on the cusp

Tseng didn’t have the debut he likely envisioned, giving up five earned runs in just three innings. But his performances in the minor leagues suggest he’s ready, or at the very least, close to ready to being a full-time major-league pitcher.

Tseng, who hails from Kaohsiung City, Taiwan, pitched for the Taiwan team in the World Baseball Classic when he was just 18 years old. He signed with the Cubs as a non-drafted free agent in 2013.

It’s still entirely up in the air as to what the Cubs will do about that final rotation spot. Mike Montgomery is on the record saying he wants to be a full-time starter, or be traded somewhere where that can be a reality, if possible. But the Cubs’ brass believes he’s best utilized as a long reliever on this team. And I’m inclined to agree. But the Duensing signing gives the Cubs another lefty in their bullpen, so that may help Montgomery’s case to some degree.

Next: Jason Heyward's future as the Cubs' right fielder

Impact of a slow market

Of course, all this speculating is moot if the Cubs end up signing one of the big free agent starters on the market. In the early weeks of the offseason, it looked like a sure thing that Alex Cobb would sign with Chicago. But that’s starting to look less likely, as his asking price is reportedly much higher than the Cubs anticipated.

In a shocking turn of events, the Cubs’ chances of re-signing Jake Arrieta appear to be getting better. Even before the regular season ended, it was starting to seem inevitable that he would not be returning to the North Side in 2018.

But this slow market has not helped him, and the longer the big names take to sign, the more they risk having to take less money. In Arrieta’s case, his contract negotiations might start getting closer to where the Cubs are at.

If, however, the team does not wind up signing another starting pitcher, keep Jen-Ho Tseng on your radar this Spring. He might be just the man for the job.