Pitching depth will be the name of the game in 2021. This isn’t the case solely for the Cubs, but for all 30 teams. After a shortened 60-game campaign last year, working up to a 162-game slate will take all hands on deck.
That doesn’t bode well for the Cubs, who watched two members of last year’s rotation sign with new clubs over the weekend. Left-hander Jon Lester inked a one-year deal with the Washington Nationals and right-hander Tyler Chatwood will head north of the border after signing a one-year pact with the Toronto Blue Jays.
More from Cubbies Crib
- Cubs should keep close eye on non-tender candidate Cody Bellinger
- Cubs starting pitching has been thriving on the North Side
- Make no mistake: the Cubs are very much about power hitters
- Cubs are giving pitcher Javier Assad a deserved shot
- Cubs: It’s time to start thinking about potential September call-ups
The deal, reported to be worth $3 million with the potential for another $2.5 million in incentives, will see Chatwood move to the bullpen for the Jays. Primarily a starter for Chicago, Toronto will look to capitalize on his elite spin rate in the late innings this season.
Of course, when the Cubs initially signed Chatwood to a three-year, $39 million deal, some folks were caught off-guard. After all, you weren’t talking about a guy who had anchored rotations to that point. Prior to joining the team, he carried a career 4.58 FIP and 1.485 WHIP – and was coming off a 15-loss season with Colorado.
Still, the Chicago front office liked the advanced data on him and believed it would translate into him being a quality arm for the team. Needless to say, that was never the case. In 2018, his first year with the Cubs, Chatwood led the league in walks – despite being shut down for the last six weeks of the year – not because of injury, but because of downright ineffectiveness.
Cubs swung and missed with the Tyler Chatwood signing.
Pitching largely out of the bullpen in 2019, he looked like a different pitcher. He essentially halved his walk rate from the year prior and played the role of swing man perfectly for the Cubs. Chatwood looked like a legitimate candidate in the 2020 rotation at year’s end, thanks to a respectable 3.76 ERA in 76 2/3 innings of work.
Admit it. You were drinking the Kool-Aid early on last year. Chatwood got off to a scorching-hot start, winning his first two outings and striking out 19 while walking just four. It looked like, at long last, he was going to finally translate stuff into results. Then, he gave up eight runs in a loss to the Royals before being sidelined with an injury. He made just two more brief outings and that was all she wrote.
Toronto is clearly hoping that a healthy Chatwood will give them an elite arm out of the pen, capable of stepping in to make a spot start if necessary. Letting him go all-out rather than focus on eating innings could be the answer for the veteran – but, regardless, watching him go takes another option off the board for Chicago.
The fact that the likes of Chatwood and Lester are too expensive for the Cubs’ taste this offseason doesn’t bode well (the two signed for a cumulative $8.5 million). It tells you all you need to know about the team’s current financial standing – and what kind of quality you can expect with any rotation additions Chicago does make in the weeks to come.