The Chicago Cubs are openly searching for pitching as the second half of the season gets underway. Much of the focus is on Jake deGrom. But that would cost the Cubs key players. Is there another path?
Perhaps. A low risk/high reward move of the kind Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein is known for making. The Reds made a just such a move when they acquired Matt Harvey from the Mets. Is there another Matt Harvey out there? Again, perhaps. And his name is Chris Tillman.
The Orioles are in teardown mode. The Manny Machado trade for five very nice minor league players and statements by Orioles GM Dan Duquette reveals as much. And now the Orioles have designated a struggling Chris Tillman for assignment. Exactly the same thing the Mets did with a struggling Matt Harvey.
Harvey turned down the minor league assignment and Mets traded him to the Reds for catcher Devin Mesoraco. Since then, the faltering Dark Knight has become the resurgent Red Baron, working to a 5-3 record with a 3.64 ERA and 1.166 WHIP with a resurrected fastball. Not bad for Devin Mesoraco.
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Like Harvey, Tillman’s past shows he possesses much potential clouded by recent struggles. So he will likely decline the assignment and either be traded or become a free agent. The O’s at that point would trade him. The Cubs should snap that up.
Low Risk/High Reward
Tillman, 30, has a one-year deal worth $3 million, cheap by any standard. The O’s also know they won’t get a ton of value for him so he’ll be far cheaper than a trade for a Jacob deGrom type pitcher.
If Tillman returns to anything like his performance from 2012 to 2016, the Cubs will have secured a three-four pitcher for almost nothing. If he can’t find it as a starter they haven’t given up much and might just have another arm for the bullpen.
The difference is that the Reds aren’t competing and the Cubs are in the playoff hunt. So the Cubs will be searching for something more certain than a Tillman. But this deal should get done anyway even with a deal for a pitcher like deGrom precisely because the risk is so low and upside so high.
There are just eleven days until the end of the nonwaiver trade deadline. The Cubs are almost certain to make more moves for pitching. This should be one of them.