The Chicago Cubs have done, quite literally, nothing to improve their prospects for 2021. It’s been one loss after another, all offseason long. If you, like me, were holding out hope on some impactful buy-low additions before spring training opens next month – you may be in store for disappointment.
On Friday, Corey Kluber, who has looked like a shell of his former self the last two years, inked a one-year deal with the New York Yankees. That’s not what’s important here, though. Early in the offseason, we thought Kluber could be a rebound candidate who could be affordable, even for the budget-focused Cubs.
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Yeah, not even close. Kluber got $11 million – which might not seem like anything to write home about given the guy is a two-time Cy Young Award winner and four-time finalist. But since 2019, he’s pitched a grand total of just 36 2/3 innings and managed a 5.65 ERA and 1.636 WHIP.
But he still got $11 million – a far cry from what Chicago is willing (or able, apparently) to pay for a guy who’s looking to re-establish himself in 2021. This doesn’t bode well for a team that still has multiple rotation vacancies and a whole lot of question marks on the roster, as a whole.
Jon Lester is still out there and if Kluber got $11 million, I have absolutely no idea where his value will come in at. On one hand, he’s clearly not the same guy he was the last time he forayed into the free agent waters, but on the other, he takes the ball every five days come hell or high water.
I’d think if any team could get some sort of discount on Lester, it would be the Cubs. But if they can’t bring back Lester – they’re set to roll into 2021 with a rotation of Kyle Hendricks, Zach Davies, Alec Mills, probably Adbert Alzolay and, at least right now, a big ‘ole question mark at the back end.
What’s so maddening is the Cubs have the payroll flexibility to do something about it. They’ve shed tens of millions of dollars this offseason in the form of departing free agents (Lester, Quintana, Kipnis, Descalso and a number of others), non-tenders of several names, most notably Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora and the trade of Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini.
If Chicago isn’t going to compete in 2021 (or 2022), adding a Kluber-type arm doesn’t make a ton of sense. But if they truly are trying to thread the needle, as Jed Hoyer has indicated, the longtime Cleveland ace is just another missed opportunity for this front office.