Chicago Cubs: Offensive struggles cannot overtake rotation demands
By Martin Fenn
The Chicago Cubs seem to have the same dilemma almost every year come trade deadline season.
Every team is forced to grapple with needs, to some extent. Still, it consistently feels the Cubs are between a rock and a hard place come July. Do they add bats, or is it wise to bolster the pitching staff with arms?
That question feels more pronounced this season considering the team’s offensive struggles in the past couple weeks.
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Chicago’s bats have fallen totally silent while setting franchise records for most strikeouts in a four-game span. Sure, part of the issue is stars like Kris Bryant continuing to scuffle and all of Anthony Rizzo, Nico Hoerner and Matt Duffy still being out of the lineup. That said, pretty much everyone up and down David Ross’ lineup card is having a rough go of things.
Yet, despite the offensive futility, the Chicago Cubs still need to focus on bolstering the rotation
The rotation has seen some improvements. Both Kyle Hendricks and Zach Davies were terrific in June, with Hendricks posting a 2.97 ERA in six starts and Davies amassing a .571 OPS against before giving up two hits and two runs in four innings of work Tuesday night against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Things are looking shaky outside of those two guys. Jake Arrieta has a 7.65 in five June starts, with opposing hitters posting a higher OPS against him in consecutive months (.940 in June). On a more concerning note, Adbert Alzolay has given up seven earned runs in 7 2/3 innings in his last two starts coming off the injured list.
There isn’t a whole lot of depth to the group. Trevor Williams is in the midst of a brief rehab assignment as he works his way back from an appendectomy, but he hadn’t exactly been dazzling when healthy. Alec Mills has made four spot starts, but the Cubs would likely prefer to have him available as a long reliever.
The Cubs really need another starter if they hope to make any kind of run both in the second half and in October. Yes, this is something that’s been harped on before, but it bears reinforcing with the offense having a hard time scratching out runs.
This is not to say the Cubs can’t add a bat. However, the front office does not seem ready to dole out prospects to land both an impact starter and another starting-caliber offensive player.
Remember, part of the rationale behind trading Yu Darvish was to reshuffle the farm system with young, high-upside guys. It is unlikely Jed Hoyer and Co. will be chomping at the bit to trade too much out of that talent pool, regardless of how many needs the Cubs might have.
Chicago’s best hope is to get everyone healthy and feeling whole again. That starts with Hoerner and Duffy, two guys with contact-heavy approaches that should be coveted by the Cubs right now. Maybe Bryant will snap out of his funk and resemble the guy who was an early MVP candidate through the first two months.
In terms of external additions, though, the Cubs need to be geared towards adding starting pitching. If they decide to buy, that is. Things could get interesting if the North Siders continue to lose ground in the National League Central.