Chicago Cubs: Another big arm is needed for the pitching staff
Before we determine who the Chicago Cubs may go after in free agency, we need to settle whether they will bring back lefties Jose Quintana and Cole Hamels. Regarding the former, the Cubs hold an $11.5 million option for 2020. That’s not a horrible price for someone who has essentially become a #4 starter, and I do think the Cubs will pick up the option. However, if it were me, I would decline it, as I would rather see that money invested in more of a front line starter and/or on the bullpen. Quintana was awful in September, and I just don’t think the team can handle his inconsistencies.
Meanwhile, Hamels is a free agent. The Cubs could make him a qualifying offer, but I doubt they will, nor should they. $17.8 million for a back-end starter is not worth it.
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Gerrit Cole is going to be the big prize in this year’s pitching free agent market, but if I were the Cubs I would look into a more affordable option in Madison Bumgarner, who has a career 3.13 ERA and has been incredible in the postseason. As for the fifth spot, I would go into the season giving Tyler Chatwood and Alec Mills a chance to compete for the job.
As for the bullpen, Brandon Kintzler, Steve Cishek, and Pedro Strop are all free agents. Strop is coming off a down year, but the Cubs could probably bring him back on a relatively cheap deal and hope for a return to his 2013-2018 form. It’s hard to envision them affording both Kintzler and Cishek, but I’d like to see them keep one of the two. In addition, I would pick up the David Phelps option; that’s relatively affordable for a decent right-handed reliever.
The Cubs have not been big spenders on middle relievers under Theo Epstein, and it’s likely that trend will continue this offseason. Indeed, I would like to see this organization develop and rely more on homegrown pitching.