Chicago Cubs: It’s time to check in on back-end starting pitching options

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

If the early returns on Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood are any indication, the Chicago Cubs might be making calls for starters sooner rather than later.

Sure, defense wins championship. But so does depth. The Chicago Cubs of recent memory serve as evidence to that claim, boasting one of the deepest rosters in the game in the last few years.

With Yu Darvish on the disabled list for the second time in his very young Cubs career and Tyler Chatwood trending in the wrong direction, this may become a very pertinent discussion at 1060 W. Addison in the near future.

The results of Darvish’s MRI were the best one could ask for. No structural damage – just triceps inflammation. He’s expected to begin throwing in a few days and rejoin the team shortly thereafter. Still, with a 4.95 ERA and1.430 WHIP eight starts in, even a ‘healthy’ Darvish hasn’t been much of a boost to the rotation.

More from Cubbies Crib

His last time out, he did look better. But shortly thereafter, the Cubs placed him on the disabled list and, well, here we are.

Inconsistency and walks

As for Chatwood, at this point, your odds of knowing what you’ll get from him on any given day are about as good knowing what the wind will do at Wrigley over the course of a homestand. It’s anybody’s guess.

He failed to make it out of the third in each of his last two starts, allowing a combined seven earned runs and walking 11 batters. The Cubs were outscored by an 18-4 margin between those two games.

All you ask is your fifth starter keep you in the ballgame. You’re not asking for seven or eight-inning outings when he takes the ball. You’re looking for five or six innings – maybe a quality start. Instead, Chatwood has routinely put his (and the team’s) back against the wall with his free pass tendencies.

Hello, old friend(s)

Where do we go from here? For the time being long man Mike Montgomery is slotted into the starting rotation. He pitched well over the weekend and will likely get another look on the current road trip. But with the Cubs chasing down the Brewers in the division, you can’t stand pat and simply hope for things to get better.

Chicago doesn’t need a Cole Hamels or anything remotely close to him. Instead, reunions with someone like Trevor Cahill or Clayton Richard make a lot more sense.

Cahill, of course, won a World Series with the Cubs two years ago. He made 50 appearances, finished 16 games and made one start that season – literally doing whatever was asked of him. This year, he’s been straight dealing in Oakland, pitching to a 2.25 ERA in his first seven starts.

The most attractive part of his performance in 2018? An impressive 4.56 strikeout-to-walk ratio. When you’re talking about replacing Chatwood, who hasn’t quit walking batters at any point this year, that sounds awfully tantalizing.

Take into account he’s making just $1.5 million this year and it makes even more sense given the team’s outstanding financial obligations to both Chatwood and Darvish.

A new swing man in the pen?

As for Richard, it makes far less sense – but could still happen given Theo and Jed’s familiarity with the lefty. Last year, he totaled 197 innings for the Padres, but pitched to a 1.515 WHIP while allowing a league-worst 240 hits.

The main role he makes sense for with as far as the Cubs are concerned? More of a swing man – especially if Montgomery stays in the rotation.

Next: Morrow dominating as Cubs pen continues to thrive

These are just some familiar names that might make sense given the Cubs’ current predicament. They shelled out a cumulative $164 million to bring in Tyler Chatwood and Yu Darvish. And, to this point, both have been underwhelming – and leaving a major void in the Chicago starting rotation.