Cubs get look at potential offseason target Pablo López in Miami

(Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)
(Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs are down in Miami for their yearly battle with the Marlins and while there isn’t much to pull for with both teams firmly out of the playoff race, Tuesday’s game did give fans a chance to dream on 2023. Pablo López was on the bump for Miami and it’s fair to say that he’ll likely be on the Cubs’ radar this offseason as a potential trade target.

López is in an awkward spot in Miami. He’s been great as a middle-of-the-rotation arm since 2020, posting 3.62 ERA and 3.49 FIP over that three-year stretch, but the Marlins have a glut of talented starters in the mix. He’s also arguably the likeliest to be moved out of fellow starters on the bubble including Edward Cabrera and Trevor Rodgers.

When looking at the Cubs, we’ve mostly considered their need for a true ace as a key to their success in 2023. Carlos Rodon and Kodai Senga stick out as prime targets or, if you’re a wishful thinker, Jacob deGrom and Shohei Ohtani would certainly be nice to have. Yet, there should be some consideration for the guys in between. The Cubs have developed plenty of arms with the potential to come up and produce, but still, few that you could argue should definitively be given a spot. Even Kyle Hendricks is hardly a lock given his health and performance the past two years.

López hasn’t been as stellar in 2022 as in the previous two years, but there’s still plenty to like. His ability to get hitters to chase is still great with an above-average 31.7 percent chase rate, even if that pales to his 94th percentile chase rate in 2021. He’s still above average in terms of limiting hard contact too and, all together, his performance this year has been enough to warrant a perfectly solid 4.01 xERA.

Adding Pablo López gives the Cubs another lock in the rotation

What’s crucial with López is that he’s still under control for two more seasons. That’s sure to make him a little pricy, though nothing that the Cubs shouldn’t be willing to pull the trigger on given their newly deepened farm system. Moreover, two years isn’t terribly long to commit to. If, over that time, he performs in line with his stellar 2021 run, there’s nothing stopping the team from offering an extension. At the same time, if he’s merely fine over that time, they can simply let him walk and slot in a young arm in his place.

If the Cubs acquired him and an ace, that’d give them four locks in the rotation with incumbents Marcus Stroman and Justin Steele while still leaving a slot for the other young arms to go for. That’s a legitimately great rotation with the option for one of Hayden Wesneski, Keegan Thompson, Caleb Kilian, etc. to break out and claim that final spot.

It creates a good problem for the organization and David Ross. The Cubs are already bursting at the seams with borderline major league arms. Several of those pitchers will have to go to the bullpen, but it gives a layer of protection to the rotation knowing that a guy like Javier Assad can do just fine covering for injuries. This is partly how the Dodgers have kept such a strong pitching staff over the years with good arms simply waiting in the wings as insurance.

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You can never have too much pitching and it should absolutely be in the Cubs’ interest to add another solid arm to the mix. López isn’t exactly an ace, but in the interest of filling holes and adding talent, bringing in an ace and a guy like López changes the dynamic of the rotation without damaging the long term outlook.