Cubs need an ace; Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and more will be available

(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /
1 of 3
Justin Verlander / Chicago Cubs
(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

No matter how you slice it, the 2021 Chicago Cubs are not a legitimate World Series contender. That’s the case for countless reasons – including the likelihood key players will be dealt ahead of the summer trade deadline, a lack of consistent offense and, perhaps most importantly, the starting rotation is the worst in all of baseball.

Almost as soon as Jed Hoyer took over the team’s baseball operations from his longtime mentor Theo Epstein this past winter, he sent National League Cy Young runner-up Yu Darvish packing. He traded the right-hander to the San Diego Padres for a package of far-off prospects and Zach Davies, who was heading into his final year of control.

With Davies struggling, the short-term outlook of the deal is bad. Really bad. Maybe some of those prospects wind up playing a role down the road, but in the meantime, the Cubs pitching staff is in dire straits. Thankfully, the team will have the chance to remedy that as soon as this winter when a loaded free agent class of arms hits the open market.

Cubs: Justin Verlander, coming off an injury, could be a potential fit

Two-time Cy Young winner Justin Verlander has thrown a total of six innings since the end of the 2019 season. He underwent Tommy John surgery last year and, odds are, he won’t pitch again this season barring some sort of miraculous late season or postseason appearance out of the bullpen.

Next February, Verlander will turn 39. He’s got just under 3,000 regular season innings on his right arm – no small number in today’s game. But with it comes a winning pedigree and a bulldog mentality, both of which are lacking in the 2021 Cubs’ starting five.

It’s hard to peg what a deal could look like, but odds are it’ll be incentive-laden. Adding that type of arm (assuming he’s at 100 percent coming off TJ) could be a big shot in the arm for Chicago and he could be the perfect mentor for some of the organization’s younger pitchers as the team moves past the 2016 club and starts assembling the next variation of the team in 2022.