A way-too-early look at the 2024 Cubs rotation if Marcus Stroman stays

Chicago could still look to add to its starting five - even if the All-Star hurler sticks around.
Cincinnati Reds v Chicago Cubs
Cincinnati Reds v Chicago Cubs / Jamie Sabau/GettyImages

As has been the case more often than not in recent years, hindsight is making the Cubs front office look awfully capable. Lambasted early in the summer for not sitting down and having extension talks with All-Star starting pitcher Marcus Stroman only to see him miss much of the second half with injury, Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins may come out of this better off than anyone anticipated.

According to reports, Stroman is expected to opt into his $21 million player option for 2024, which would keep him on the North Side for at least one more season - even without that extension he sought a couple months ago.

In the first half, the veteran was pitching like a man on a mission - a mission to cash in at season's end. He made 19 starts for the Cubs, working to a 2.96 ERA and 1.110 WHIP. But then he hit a wall, and couldn't seem to execute or find any sort of rhythm on the mound. Soon thereafter, he hit the IL - and just as it seemed he was set to return, a new injury, this time a rib issue, extended his stint on the shelf.

Finally, last week, Stroman returned to the mound - making a pair of relief appearances before slotting back into the rotation against the Rockies over the weekend. He clearly wasn't at his best, but given the decimated Cubs bullpen, anything helps at this point. Right now, it's obviously all about the next seven days - but the possibility of Stroman returning in 2024 is certainly worth at least touching on in the interim.

Pulling back and looking at the big picture, Stroman has been what he's been his entire career this season with the Cubs, despite the highs and lows. He's got a 3.88 ERA and 1.248 WHIP - in his big league career, he checks in with a 3.64 ERA and 1.251 WHIP. That's solid, no matter how you want to look at it - and having him back in the fold does a lot to lengten the Cubs' internal rotation options.

With Marcus Stroman in tow, Cubs would have solid rotation depth heading into the offseason trade market and free agency

Assuming Stroman does, in fact, re-up for 2024 and is back - the Cubs will start off on solid footing heading into the winter. Stroman would join likely NL Cy Young finalist Justin Steele, along with Jameson Taillon, who has, by and large, been surprisingly solid in the second half - and the final two spots in the rotation could be filled by some sort of combination of Kyle Hendricks, Justin Wicks, Ben Brown, Hayden Wesneski and Javier Assad.

At his best, Stroman is capable of putting a staff on his back. But even if he's just what he's always been - the Cubs are in a good spot. You'd like to see them go out and add another front-end guy to pair with Steele, because it feels like you've got a lot of options to fill out the middle and back of the rotation right now.

Assad has been a revelation this year - and Hendricks has turned back the clock, re-establishing himself as a reliable arm who can keep you in ballgames. Wicks, Wesneski and Brown all figure to factor in next year in some role, whether it be in the rotation or out of the bullpen. Depth, as we've learned this year, is the name of the game. And if Stroman is back, even without external additions via trade or free agency, Chicago is in a strong spot as it eyes its big coming out party next season.