Cubs mentioned as speculative suitor for Jacob deGrom in free agency

Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

Every so often, a team needs to make a bold move – one fraught with as much risk as promise. A potential free agent signing of Jacob deGrom, whether it be by the Cubs or one of the handful of other teams in need of an ace, falls firmly in that category.

At his best, deGrom is untouchable. The four-time All-Star and two-time Cy Young winner comes with a well-documented, lengthy injury history though that makes signing him huge gamble. Expected to target a deal that exceeds Max Scherzer’s $43.3M AAV, the right-hander has the potential to anchor a rotation – or torpedo a team’s postseason hopes if he can’t stay healthy.

In a piece over at The Athletic (subscription required) that looks at the Mets’ free agent needs, the Cubs were mentioned among a handful of ‘speculative suitors’ that also includes the likes of the Yankees, Red Sox, Padres, Astros and Orioles. Of course, these teams checked in below the Rangers, Braves, Dodgers and Giants – but, still, it’s nice seeing Chicago mentioned in discussions regarding the best arm available this winter.

This year with New York, deGrom made just 11 starts, working to a 2.13 FIP and 0.746 ERA. He hasn’t made 30 starts in a single year since 2019 – which adds another layer to his pursuit of a deal that could push $50 million a year. 

Cubs have an intriguing mix of arms but lack a clear-cut #1 starter

There’s no doubt the Cubs badly need a proven commodity atop the rotation if they hope to contend in 2023. Former ace Kyle Hendricks has looked like a shell of his former self in each of the last two seasons and while the emergence of Justin Steele was a huge plus, the story of this rotation, at least right now, is potential and little more.

Hayden Wesneski looked brilliant in his late-season debut with the team, but, again, that was his first taste of big league action and sustaining it over the course of an entire season is a very different thing. Caleb Kilian proved he needed more seasoning at Triple-A, where he continued to battle control issues and Keegan Thompson was much more effective as a reliever than starter.

Adrian Sampson was a nice story, but, again, he’s not a guy you build a rotation around. Marcus Stroman settled in after his bout with COVID and an injury and will be back for year two on the North Side in 2023. Like I said, there’s a lot of intriguing names at play here, but the group lacks that go-to guy in a must-win game.

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deGrom would certainly fit the bill, but comes with a tremendous amount of risk, as well. Personally, I think Jed Hoyer could, in his words, spend more ‘intelligently’ – and go another route when shoring up the front of the rotation this winter, whether that come through free agency or trade.