One thing is clear. No matter the financial situation, the Cubs need more arms.
The Chicago Cubs already saw three of their starting pitchers head for free agency in Jon Lester, Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood. It is certainly possible Chicago could pursue re-signing Lester to a one-year deal at a cheap value after declining his $25 million option and eating the $10 million buyout. But the other two are unlikely to return.
Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks will anchor the top of the rotation. Alec Mills is still likely to figure into the mix, and Adbert Alzolay could be given a more extended run as a starter next season after a strong showing in the abbreviated 2020 campaign.
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Still, that makes just four rotation arms for next year, and the Cubs would undoubtedly prefer to have more options.
Again, it remains to be seen just how much Theo Epstein and Co. will be willing (or able) to spend in an offseason full of financial challenges and complications. Someone like Marcus Stroman could be have been enticing as a ground-ball pitcher just entering the prime of his career, but he opted to accept the Mets’ qualifying offer on Wednesday.
In other words, it seems somewhat unlikely the Cubs make the “splashy” or “sexy” move in the rotation and instead opt for reclamation projects to fill out the staff.
Cubbies Crib’s own Jacob Misener recently took a look at the possibility of a reunion with former Cub Jeff Samardzija. Another buy-low option could be former Toronto Blue Jays and Houston Astros right-hander Aaron Sanchez.
The 28-year-old missed the entirety of the 2020 season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn capsule in his right shoulder. But Sanchez is throwing again and he has already worked out for “multiple” teams according to Jon Morosi of MLB Network. Sanchez has also increased the spin rate on his fastball, per agent Scott Boras.
There are multiple reasons to be wary of signing Sanchez. The most obvious is health.
Sanchez made just 56 combined starts between 2017 and 2019 due to an assortment of injuries, and he is coming off the aforementioned shoulder procedure.
Moreover, these injuries have had a major impact on the Californian’s career trajectory. Sanchez went 15-2 with an AL-best 3.00 ERA in 30 starts and nearly 200 innings in 2016. He looked to all the world like the next big star. But Sanchez made just eight starts in 2017 and finished the next two seasons with an ERA of 4.89 and 5.89, respectively.
The other reason a deal might not come to fruition is Chicago’s somewhat complicated relationship dealing with Boras, who also represents Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant. Of course, we all know the allegations that were settled last year regarding alleged service time manipulation by the club.
Epstein and Jed Hoyer simply will not play hardball to sign a guy who has struggled to stay healthy and generate results, especially in a depressed market. Still, Sanchez’s uptick in spin rate could be appealing, pending he has resolved command issues that have plagued his career.
Tons of teams need starting pitching, and the market is thin. Sanchez is young and has traditionally had success with his breaking and off-speed stuff throughout his career. Perhaps the new spin rate can unlock the fastball, which might be the key to unlocking the right-hander’s full potential.
If nothing else, the Cubs can inquire as to his market and hope to buy very low on Sanchez as a stowaway arm for next year.