Chicago Cubs: Another reclamation project target in Mike Foltynewicz

(Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images) /

If the Chicago Cubs insist on shopping the bargain bin yet again this offseason, right-hander and Illinois native Mike Foltynewicz could be one of the names on what’s sure to be a lengthy list of potential fits.

Over the weekend, I talked about why someone like Carlos Rodon is worth the risk – but you certainly can’t lump these two pitchers together. Foltynewicz hasn’t been the same guy in three or so years, and while Rodon comes with health questions, he’s undoubtedly got the higher ceiling at this point.

Late last offseason, I opined a move for Foltynewicz had far more promise than someone like an aging Jake Arrieta (which is, of course, who the Cubs wound up signing) – for multiple reasons. Even now, he’s just 30 years old, so it stands to reason he’s not on his last leg in the way Arrieta sure seemed to be this summer.

This season with Texas, the right-hander struggled, but got the ball pretty regularly for the Rangers, a team that had little to no chance in the AL West. He tossed nearly 140 innings, making 24 starts and four relief appearances – but there are very few positives to take away from his 2021 campaign.

2021 Rankings – Baseball Savant

  • Bottom 6 percent of the league in max exit velocity
  • Bottom 18 percent of the league in hard hit rate
  • Bottom 15 percent of the league in xwOBA
  • Bottom 3 percent of the league in whiff rate
  • Bottom 7 percent of the league in strikeout percentage
  • Bottom 7 percent of the league in xSLG

All this to say he got hit hard, didn’t miss many bats, couldn’t get guys to chase outside the zone and, for good measure, was solidly below average on the spin rate for both his curve ball and fastball. So why, exactly, would a team like the Cubs take a flier on him? Easy. Because they have nothing to lose by doing so.

Chicago Cubs need arms – and can take risks on guys like Mike Foltynewicz

The big red flag for the right-hander in 2020 was he lost a staggering amount of velocity on his fastball. He bounced back a bit this year, getting back up to 93.5 MPH. In fact, his average velocity sharply rose across the board, although it clearly didn’t translate to results on the mound.

Much in the same way the Pirates have nothing to lose by bringing in Jose Quintana, who’s also coming off a rough 2021 campaign, the Cubs simply need to amass arms as they look to piece together a starting rotation.

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In an ideal world, these reclamation projects aren’t the only pieces of the puzzle – Chicago needs a true ace atop this rotation – but now is the time to take a chance and see if they can get guys like Foltynewicz back on track.