Chicago Cubs: Four cost-effective starting pitchers to consider

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James Paxton / Chicago Cubs
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Cubs: James Paxton adds a left-handed presence to the rotation

The Chicago Cubs front office seems to be veering hard toward a hard reboot of the franchise, so a reclamation project could be a perfect experiment for them to try this year.

From his rookie year in 2013 to 2019, James Paxton pitched to the tune of an impressive 3.50 ERA, 0.9 HR/9, 2.7 BB/9 and 9.9 SO/9. The main issue with the left-hander throughout his career has been injuries.

“The Big Maple” as he’s called, has never made 30 starts in a season. This past season in particular was a mess for Paxton. He made just five starts and his ERA skyrocketed to 6.64 before he underwent microscopic lumbar discectomy, ending his season. His debacle of a final season certainly tanked his price.

His poor performance and injury history makes him unlikely to get a major deal and it would make sense for him to take a one-year ‘prove-it’ deal and attempt to cash out next year. Paxton will certainly still get a major league deal, and he may yet be a bit too pricey for the Cubs, but he is a perfect candidate to be the five starter in the rotation.

Cubs could also pivot to a former top prospect in Taijuan Walker

Another former Mariner in his own right, Taijuan Walker is coming off his first full season since his Tommy John surgery in 2018. Last year, he made 11 starts in the COVID-shortened 2020 season.

During his time with the Mariners and Blue Jays this past season, he had a 2.70 ERA with a respectable 8.4 SO/9 and a HR/9 of 1.0 in his last five starts with the Blue Jays. What’s appealing about Walker is that he’s still young for a free agent, just 28. \

The right-hander also isn’t likely to command a large contract and may very well be in the Cubs price range. A two-year deal for around $12-14 million could make a lot of sense as Chicago could add a young, cheap arm that could wind up developing into a good trade chip if nothing else.