Chicago Cubs: Don’t hold your breath on a Carlos Rodón signing

(Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs have dramatically improved their starting rotation already – but given Jed Hoyer’s self-stated desire to add a power arm to the mix, they can’t, at least in my eyes, totally check off that box just yet.

Marcus Stroman is an elite ground ball pitcher and will immediately slot in atop the rotation alongside Kyle Hendricks. Wade Miley is an enormous step up from the likes of Jake Arrieta or Trevor Williams. From there, you can mix and match with some in-house candidates, such as Adbert Alzolay, Alec Mills and Justin Steele to give yourself a solid, albeit far from overpowering, rotation.

Major league transactions have ground to a halt thanks to the ongoing lockout, but one free agent name remains who could help the Cubs fill that need – even after Hoyer said the team is pivoting its attention away from starting pitching now: Carlos Rodon.

We all know his story by this point. A former first-rounder who’d never lived up to the hype, Rodon broke out in a big way in 2021, looking like a legitimate Cy Young candidate before health concerns and a subsequent drop in velocity derailed him late in the season.

Rodon was masterful, on the whole, though – no matter how you slice it: his baseball card numbers, sabermetrics and analytical data – you name it, it’s all good. But all that ‘good’ comes with perhaps more risk than any other free agent left on the market.

The White Sox opted to not tender the left-hander a qualifying offer, which is worrisome, to say the least. Scott Boras has made it clear that his client wants a multi-year deal and that a one-year pact isn’t what he’s looking for in free agency. Even so, there’s a very clear fit between Rodon and the Cubs, and one that should be explored further, although I think it’s very unlikely it comes to fruition.

Carlos Rodón makes so much sense for the Chicago Cubs it actually hurts me

We saw with the Stroman deal – Chicago is far likelier to go higher AAV rather than long-term when it comes to pitching, especially one with as many red flags as Rodon. You don’t go give a guy with lingering health questions a major pact and risk him sitting on the shelf for the bulk of 2022 (and, potentially for years to come).

But if the Cubs can work something out on, say, a two-year deal, as Brett over at Bleacher Nation points out – they have nothing to lose. The 2022 team isn’t a legitimate World Series contender as currently constructed. Could they make the postseason, especially if the playoffs are expanded in the new CBA? Maybe. Could they also lose 90+ games and sell again in July? You betcha.

In either scenario, though, Rodon has value. If somehow the Cubs snuck into October next fall, a Stroman-Rodon-Hendricks trio is a pretty darned good place to start. If the team is a dumpster fire come July, and Rodon is healthy, Hoyer’s phone will be blowing up with suitors clamoring to add him for the stretch run.

And if, after all this, he ends up hurt and being nothing but dead weight? It still doesn’t matter. This organization has its eyes set on 2024 and beyond. A two-year, incentive-laden deal for a high-risk, high-reward arm like Carlos Rodón does nothing to jeopardize a long-term plan. Even so, seeing Chicago make a serious run at the veteran seems like a very long shot right now.