The re-tooled Chicago Cubs rotation has gotten off to a nice start this Spring Training, posting a 3.50 ERA through 15 games. One of the biggest questions surrounding this team this year is this rotation and how the loss of Yu Darvish will impact the group. The additions of Jake Arrieta, Trevor Williams and Zach Davies have a lot of upside and Williams, in particular, presents potential a lot of people aren’t talking about.
Williams has spent five seasons in the big leagues, all with the intra-division rival Pittsburgh Pirates. Through those five seasons, he worked to a 4.43 ERA and 7.0 SO/9. His best season came in 2018 in which he posted a 3.11 ERA with a 14-10 record. The right-hander has the tools to be a solid middle of the rotation option.
The one concern with the 28-year-old right hander is his home run rate. In 2020, he gave up 15 home runs which was the most in all of the majors, coming on the heels of 27 long balls in 2019. If Williams can limit the amount of long balls he gives up he will become a much more trustworthy option.
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Williams has posted a career WAR of 4.7 which comes out to an average of a little under 1.0. The Cubs signed him to a one-year, $2.5 million deal and I believe there’s a lot of value with that. Chicago has become kings of the one-year-deal and this should invoke a lot of motivation, especially for a guy like Williams, who’s coming off the worst year of his career in which he posted a 6.18 ERA in the shortened season.
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Not only is this a value signing, it’s great for morale. Williams dad grew up a die hard Cubs fan and even worked as an usher at Wrigley Field for a few years. Having this tie-in with the team writes a great narrative for this group and could be just what Williams needs to get back on track and in the right mindset.
The Cubs need everyone to step up this year and the rotation has the opportunity to turn some heads and show that the Darvish loss will not define them. Williams is an X-factor for this group and if he can tap into his 2018 form, the Cubs are going to become an intriguing team to watch. As we say every year, the pieces are there but the low-risk, high-upside options need to pay off.
Williams has shown he has what it takes to be an effective starting pitcher in this league and his importance to this team should not be overlooked as he takes the mound in 2021.