Chicago Cubs could very well turn to Tyler Chatwood in the rotation

If we accept that the Chicago Cubs have no money to spend, it’s hard to see a situation where Tyler Chatwood doesn’t get a look in the starting rotation.

It’s getting really old hypothesizing about the plans of the Chicago Cubs assuming the team has no intentions of spending significant money this offseason. That being said, it’s looking more and more like the world we live in. So here we go.

As things currently stand, Chicago will open the 2020 campaign with Kyle Hendricks, Yu Darvish, Jon Lester and Jose Quintana set in the starting rotation. The fifth spot, last year occupied by Cole Hamels, is wide open.

That’s not to say the rest of the staff is a sure thing. Lester is coming off a season where he ranked as the second-worst starter in the league in terms of ERA. Quintana has been wildly inconsistent and Darvish’s 2019 season was undoubtedly a tale of two halves.

Hendricks is the lone stable presence of the group. Which is why the idea of relying on Tyler Chatwood as the team’s fifth starter next season seems such a high-risk gamble. But at this point, what else can the team do?

Chicago will pay Chatwood $13 million in 2020 – money that you can scarcely justify for a swing man, which is the role he filled last season. If the team has any chance at competing next year, the right-hander has to continue to build on the success he had last year on the mound.

We all know the story. On the heels of signing a three-year, $38 million deal ahead of the 2018 season, Chatwood imploded. Despite largely being shut down over the season’s final two months, he still lead all big league starter in walks. On the year, he limped to a 1.804 WHIP and 5.60 FIP across 103 2/3 innings of work.

In short, it was a complete and utter disaster.

Joe Maddon trusted Chatwood as his long man in 2019, especially as the club sent Mike Montgomery to the Kansas City Royals in a deal. Thankfully, the veteran answered the call with 76 2/3 innings of 3.76 ERA ball – a sharp contrast from his dismal 2018 showing.

Over his final 18 games – all coming in the second half, Chatwood looked like a real weapon for Chicago, working to a 2.84 ERA in 31 2/3 innings of work. His 3.45 strikeout-to-walk ratio stood as a stark contrast to his prior year’s work and it really looked like he figured something out with first-year pitching coach Tommy Hottovy.

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Now, though, with Hamels joining the Atlanta Braves in free agency, the Cubs need more than a long-man in the pen. They need Chatwood to live up to his deal. The clock is ticking. Heading into the final year of his contract, it’s on the right-hander to step up and deliver. If he does, he could very well play a critical role in the team’s 2020 fate.