This wasn’t a particularly loaded free agent class, but it did have a handful of good pitchers. Luckily for the Chicago Cubs, though, none of them joined other teams in the NL Central.
There were about four big-name free agent starting pitchers on the market this year, and the only one who will be pitching in the National League Central is Yu Darvish, who signed with the Chicago Cubs.
It hasn’t been talked about a whole lot, but the Cubs lucked out. The St. Louis Cardinals, despite having missed the playoffs last season, could very easily squeak in there this year. Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Brewers, who improved dramatically last year, look like they could contend for a Wild Card spot as well. So it would have made perfect sense for either one of those teams to go after the big arms this offseason.
This isn’t college athletics. Strength of schedule in Major League Baseball has absolutely no bearing on how teams get into the postseason. So the Cubs should consider themselves lucky in this regard. Now, this isn’t to say it will be a cakewalk winning the NL Central again.
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Easier path for Chicago
Cobb was the last man standing as far as starting pitchers are concerned, and he just signed a four-year deal with the Baltimore Orioles. Many believe Cobb to be a perfect fit for the Orioles, but in my mind, I just don’t see how it makes sense. The O’s aren’t likely to get even remotely close to the Yankees and Red Sox. Going the route of the Minnesota Twins and giving someone a one-year deal would have seemed more logical. But then again, I’m just a couch potato with a computer, not a baseball GM.
I’m not sold on the Brewers quite yet. They’ve definitely improved their lineup by adding Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain. But there’s a case to be made that they over-performed last year. And if that’s true, they may only be good enough to match what they did in 2017, which won’t be enough.
The Cardinals use devil magic, so you can never count them out. Their rotation is a pretty big question mark this year, though. Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha figure to be solid, but after that, it’s anyone’s guess what they do. Top propspect Alex Reyes could break out this year, but that’s certainly not something St. Louis can count on. Signing one of the free agent starters would’ve have helped them a ton.
No Arrieta reunion
Some fans would have preferred Jake Arrieta over Yu Darvish, but the truth is, Darvish is probably the better pitcher at this point. So it worked out well for the Cubs. Arrieta has been steadily declining for the past couple seasons. Though he’s still posted solid ERAs, his FIP and WHIP have been climbing, suggesting his ERA could’ve easily been a lot higher than it was.
Making moves for nostalgia’s sake often times does not end well. It has to make sense from a baseball perspective, and signing Yu Darvish made more sense than a Jake Arrieta reunion.
Even if Cobb, Lynn or Arrieta would’ve signed with an NL Central team, the Cubs would still be heavy favorites to win their division. But it doesn’t hurt that none of them found their way to rival teams.