Chicago Cubs: Lack of homegrown arms is a glaring issue
Before we delve into this area of focus – let me say: if you don’t subscribe to The Athletic, you should. It’s worth every penny. Sahadev Sharma and Patrick Mooney penned a piece (which actually inspired this column) entitled, “Winner’s trap: How did a Cubs dynasty start to fall apart before it truly began?”
The entire piece is masterfully constructed and dives into things on a much deeper level than I do here. Take the time to read it, really – you won’t regret it. One thing jumped out at me though more than anything else.
"Through eight draft classes, the Epstein regime has selected 124 pitchers who signed with the organization. Only seven – Paul Blackburn, Duane Underwood Jr., Pierce Johnson, Zack Godley, Rob Zastryzny, James Norwood and Dylan Cease – have made it to the big leagues with any team. So far, only Godley (2.9) has accumulated more than 0.3 WAR in his career."
This – more than any other issue this organization faces – represents an obstacle that cannot be overcome in the near future. You can’t simply start drafting and developing pitchers more effectively. It takes time, money and a willingness to look in the mirror and question the practices and policies you have in place – something Epstein now seems more willing to do given the outcome of the 2019 campaign.
For much of the Epstein era, the front office has focused its draft strategy around high-impact position players. We’ve seen it work pretty well time and time again, with the likes of Bryant, Schwarber, Ian Happ and, most recently, Nico Hoerner, showcase their skills at the big league level.
But when it comes to arms, it’s been a different story. Last winter, the Cubs were forced to shed payroll and bring back Cole Hamels at $20 million to round out their rotation. This piecemeal approach to building a pitching staff – one that is looking older and more inconsistent than ever – isn’t a recipe for sustained success.