Chicago Cubs could get critical rotation depth from Colin Rea

(Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
(Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images) /

After a breakout year with Triple-A Iowa in 2019, right-hander Colin Rea could emerge as a key depth piece for the Chicago Cubs next season.

Last offseason, the Chicago Cubs took a chance on Colin Rea, an Indiana native who was battling back from Tommy John surgery. The big right-hander did not disappoint and exceeded all expectations, earning Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year honors as the anchor of the Iowa Cubs rotation.

Rea, 29, never saw big league action with Chicago – but that doesn’t mean he won’t in 2020. The team added him to the 40-man roster, thus protecting him from the Rule 5 Draft. As the team moved on from the likes of Kendall Graveman, keeping someone like Rea in the fold makes more sense than ever before.

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In the hitter-friendly PCL, he worked to a 3.95 ERA  and 1.365 WHIP. You’d like to see a little more balance in his strikeout-to-walk numbers, but overall, he was effective for the first time since he went under the knife in 2017.

It seems likely that, even if the Cubs don’t go out and add a starting pitcher via trade or free agency, Rea will once again open the season with Triple-A Iowa next year. The team has several other internal options to fill the void left by Cole Hamels, including Tyler Chatwood, Adbert Alzolay and Alec Mills.

But this rotation isn’t getting any younger and it comes with its own share of question marks. Jon Lester, entering what could be his final season with the Cubs, turns 36 in January.

Yu Darvish has a pretty extensive injury history, despite his health and dominant performance late last year. Kyle Hendricks is a pretty stable piece to the puzzle and Jose Quintana has been maddeningly inconsistent.

So it would surprise absolutely nobody if the Cubs were forced to tap Rea for a spot start at some point next year. Bringing him into the fold makes perfect sense, especially for an organization focused on payroll this offseason. Starting pitching depth doesn’t grow on trees – and saving $3 million by letting someone like Graveman walk and instead going with Rea, who showed he’s healthy and effective at Iowa suddenly makes a lot more sense.

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These aren’t the types of moves that make a lot of headlines during the offseason. Adding a guy to the 40-man often goes overlooked. But don’t be surprised if we’re looking back at some point next summer, thankful Colin Rea is in the mix for the team moving forward.