Kyle Gibson is another free agent starting pitcher who will be available this offseason. Should the Chicago Cubs try to bring in the right-hander?
As of this writing, the Chicago Cubs have four of their five starting rotation spots set with Jon Lester, Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana under control heading into 2020. With the team declining to make a qualifying offer to Cole Hamels, the fifth spot in the rotation is currently open. We’re sure to see lots of rumors and projections in the coming days regarding who the Cubs may try to bring in to fill that spot.
One name that has come up is Kyle Gibson, who has pitched for the Minnesota Twins his entire career. MLBTradeRumors.com is projecting that Gibson will sign with the Cubs for two years at $18 million. Would he be a good fit for the Cubs?
Gibson has frustrated many observers because he came with a lot of promise but has had trouble putting it all together at the big league level. The Twins drafted the right-hander in the first round (22nd overall) in 2009. He debuted in 2013, and by 2015 he made 32 starts while posting a 3.84 ERA. However, in 2016 and 2017, his ERA for both seasons was 5.07.
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In 2018, Gibson had his best season. In 32 starts, his ERA was 3.62, but in 2019 that number went back up to 4.84. So as we can see, Gibson’s career has been up-and-down. One positive sign is that his strikeout rates per nine innings have gone up every year of his career except for one (2016), topping out at 9.0 in 2019. His strikeout-to-walk ratio also improved last year, up to 2.86.
Another positive sign is Gibson’s high ground ball rate, which has consistently been around 50% his entire career. This figures to play well on those hot summer days at Wrigley Field when the wind is blowing out.
For 2020, Baseball Reference projects that Gibson will put up a 4.53 ERA, while FanGraphs puts him at a 4.04 ERA. Save for a couple of minor injuries, Gibson has been relatively healthy for most of his career. As he enters his age 32 season, while Gibson would likely be a durable rotation option, it’s tough to predict what he will do going forward.
From the perspective that the Cubs don’t figure to spend much this offseason, it makes sense that they would be interested in Gibson. MLB Trade Rumors projects that the man Gibson would be replacing, Cole Hamels, will make $15 million annually, while Gibson would only make $9 million. So, they’d save about $6 million next year alone. They may take a flyer on Gibson and hope he can return to 2018 form.
Still, it’s hard to see Gibson being much of a difference maker for the Cubs. He could be a good #4 or #5 starter, but the team is going to need more than that to significantly improve their rotation in 2020. If that’s all they plan to add, I’d rather see them use that money for the bullpen and give Tyler Chatwood or Alec Mills a chance to fill the fifth starter spot. (I’d like to see them go out and get a bigger-named free agent starter, but given what we’ve heard lately it sounds like there’s a good chance that won’t happen.)
While I don’t think Gibson would be a horrible signing, if he’s the only addition to the Cubs’ rotation in 2020, that would not be enough to make the team a serious contender. He would likely be an arm to eat up innings instead of a difference maker that the team truly needs. Unless the team has other plans to bolster the pitching staff, I hope they go in another direction.