Bring us your cup snakes and broom emojis. The Chicago Cubs continue to surprise and impress, sweeping the free-falling St. Louis Cardinals this weekend at Wrigley Field to improve to a season-best 11 games over .500 on the year.
There have been a ton of factors in the team’s success, including timely hitting and a league-best bullpen, anchored by the likes of Craig Kimbrel, Ryan Tepera and others. While it’s been (mostly) roses to this point, there are weaknesses on the roster that could prove costly later in the year, the biggest and most obvious of which is the starting rotation.
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When Chicago traded former ace Yu Darvish to the San Diego Padres back in December, it was clear that the starting rotation would face an uphill battle in 2021. Besides the loss of Darvish, the Cubs also lost Tyler Chatwood, Jon Lester and Jose Quintana to free agency. So at the end of the day, the only remaining guys were Kyle Hendricks and Alec Mills.
Chicago Cubs must add to the rotation ahead of the trade deadline
At the beginning of the season, the rotation consisted of Hendricks, Jake Arrieta, Zach Davies, Trevor Williams and Adbert Alzolay.
Hendricks was tapped as the ace of the staff early on, but he hasn’t pitched like one. All in all, his inconsistency has been his downfall. This season, Hendricks has gone 8-4, posting a 4.46 ERA. He has also given up 19 home runs and a total of 86 hits which is the most out of all the pitchers in the league. Thankfully, he’s been much stronger of late – and it’s made a huge difference.
Davies and Williams have also been inconsistent – and the latter is still shelved after undergoing an emergency appendectomy. Arrieta has returned to the Cubs but is aging and is just a shell of his former self at this point. Not only that, Alzolay, who was developing and proving himself successful, is sidelined with a finger blister. As a result, the team’s current starting squad consists of Hendricks, Arrieta, Davies, Mills, and a fifth starter who is yet to be determined but is often filled by the shuttle running back and forth from Iowa.
Despite the team’s starting struggles, the Cubs look to be legitimate contenders going into the rest of 2021 and beyond. As the trade deadline is approaching, rumors are circulating, and it seems as if the team will be buyers for the deadline. If the Chicago Cubs can acquire a decent starting pitcher by July 30, they will be able to continue to contend successfully, and they will genuinely have a good chance of succeeding through September and beyond.
But, if Jed Hoyer and the front office falter, the team will have to look toward contention next season instead. Only time will tell if the starting rotation miraculously improves or changes are made toward further contention in 2021.