The answer to the question of what wins championships in baseball could be a myriad of different things, but one thing that would appear on just about anyone’s list would be: balance.
The Chicago Cubs are entering the 2024 season with a couple of changes to their rotation. First, they’ve signed one of the top available Japanese talents in left-hander Shota Imanaga, but they also watched as right-hander Marcus Stroman left for the New York Yankees.
Aside from that one major difference between the 2023 rotation and the 2024 rotation is the likely move from the rotation to the bullpen for another lefty in Drew Smyly. Smyly had a spectacular start to the year and nearly threw a perfect game against the Dodgers if not for an unforced error by Gold Glover Yan Gomes. That being said, he struggled from about June onward due to his limited pitch mix and he should be seen as a sixth starter in case of injury but not someone to be relied upon to start what should be a playoff run in 2024.
He’ll likely be replaced by young left-hander Jordan Wicks, our number nine prospect in the system and number ten left-handed pitching prospect in all of baseball. Wicks had a fine showing at the end of the year last season but replacing a lefty with a lefty doesn’t help balance this rotation.
Cubs could definitely use more balance in the starting rotation
As it stands going into 2024 the projected rotation will be:
LHP Justin Steele
RHP Kyle Hendricks
LHP Shota Imanaga
RHP Jameson Taillon
LHP Jordan Wicks
Most teams tend to have one or two lefties in their rotation but the Cubs will begin the year with three and if there were an injury to Kyle Hendricks or Jameson Taillon then the next man up would likely be a fourth lefty with Drew Smyly.
There is absolutely a world where young right-handers Hayden Wesneski, Javier Assad or Ben Brown dominate in spring training and they seize that fifth or sixth starter spot, but as we stand today it would appear that four of the top six starting pitching options that the Cubs have are left-handed.
There is nothing inherently wrong with that construction, especially with top pitching prospect Cade Horton expected to be ready by the All-Star break and the Cubs’ farm system loaded with enough talent to buy a right-handed arm by the trade deadline, but the lack of balance is at least a little concerning.