MLB Trade Rumors took a trip down memory lane, looking at each team’s most recent homegrown 3+ WAR starting pitcher – and for Cubs fans, it’s a tough reminder of an area the organization has failed miserably over the last decade.
Only two teams – the Rangers and Diamondbacks – have longer spans than Chicago when it comes to last accomplishing this developmental feat. The Cubs’ last 3+ WAR homegrown starter? Jeff Samardzija back in 2014. And, yes, if you’re scratching your head at that, he was traded halfway through the season and spent the back half of the year alongside Jon Lester in Oakland.
The Theo Epstein regime did a lot of things well during its reign on the North Side. After all, despite that lack of a quality homegrown starter, the team won a World Series, advanced to three-straight National League Championship Series and was an annual contender for the back half of the decade.
But when you look back at that stretch, you can’t help but wonder what other moves Epstein might have had payroll for if his team was able to develop even one quality arm during that stretch. As that MLBTR piece points out, Kyle Hendricks was acquired long before he was even on the radar as a potential big leaguer, but it was Texas, not Chicago, that initially drafted him.
Chicago Cubs hoping the man to end this streak is already in the organization
As Jed Hoyer continues reloading the system, you hope at least one of these up-and-coming arms pans out for the Cubs. Looking at Baseball America‘s organization top 10, Brailyn Marquez checks in at #3 – but has plenty of questions that need answering coming off an injury-riddled 2021 season. Last year’s first-round pick, Jordan Wicks, comes with a ton of polish and could very well be the one to break this streak someday.
Don’t overlook AFL hero Caleb Kilian, who was acquired in the Kris Bryant trade last summer, either. If he can build on his exploits this year, he’ll keep climbing prospect lists in a hurry. At the big league level, Justin Steele and Adbert Alzolay represent the best chances at a 3+ WAR season in the immediate future.
Of course, you can win without homegrown starting pitching. The Cubs’ three-headed monster of Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks was near-untouchable there for a spell – and Chicago road them, along with their young and potent position player core, to a ring in 2016.
Under Epstein, the Cubs built their foundation on position players. Now, with a new approach to the draft under Hoyer, here’s to hoping the team can snap this streak sooner rather than later, because their ability to get back on top may very well depend on it.