Glancing over the pitching depth that the Chicago Cubs currently have, you have to wonder: What are the Cubs planning to do with ten players that can all be in a starting role? Before signing Jameson Taillon and the rumored return of Drew Smyly, the Cubs already boasted several pitchers in the rotation that all just came off stellar seasons that helped the team finish nine games above .500 in the second half of the season. Marcus Stroman and Justin Steele are clear-cut locks for the rotation. Long-time veteran Kyle Hendricks figures to get a shot to begin the season, and from there, you can list seven more that all should be fighting for spots in Spring Training.
Will the Cubs look to bolster a bullpen with guys that can be utilized as spot starters? Theoretically, there is nothing wrong with the ideology of having multiple starters past your regular rotation that can all come in if one guy doesn't have it that day. It also provides convenience to ensure that you're never going to be too banged up to where you don't know who to turn to. On the flip side of that coin, a surplus of pitching potentially winds up blocking guys in Triple-A Iowa, which in turn blocks guys in Double-A Tennessee, where you're eager to see development this year in the prospect department.
The reality, there are multiple avenues the Cubs can take at this juncture. First, you can roll out the super-deep starting rotation/bullpen combo and not tax your arms as much as you otherwise would. Or, you can put together a trade package, including Nick Madrigal with a couple of these arms, and land a much-needed front of the rotation piece. We know Pablo Lopez is available, for example. Are Adrian Sampson and Adbert Alzolay viable pieces to add in a trade of this caliber, depending on who else is added? You still have a rotation consisting of Stroman, Taillon, Steele, Hayden Wesneski, and Hendricks. Along with Smyly, Keegan Thompson, and Javier Assad, or Caleb Kilian if needed to be called upon either in long relief or from Iowa. And that's before adding the piece you trade for to the rotation.
The Chicago Cubs have a surplus of starting pitchers.
In reality, the Cubs may not be completely ready to go "all in" and start trading guys for true aces. An impending trade will likely be contingent upon the rest of the offseason. Can the Cubs land Michael Conforto and Trey Mancini? They certainly have a solid top five in their lineup: Nico Hoerner, Dansby Swanson, Ian Happ, Seiya Suzuki, and Cody Bellinger. However, they still need clear-cut production after that. Landing another bat or two can accelerate the process of a possible trade to bolster the rotation, giving Chicago an opportunity to take a crack at the NL Central in 2023.
The Cubs' offseason is far from over just because they inked Swanson to a seven-year deal. Hopefully, they land another bat because if they do, the argument can be made that a trade for a solid #1 or #2 starter puts them in contention. Right now, the offense is still slightly lacking. It can, however, be addressed by adding another bat to the middle of the lineup.
In total, you have the Cubs have a 13-man pitching staff. That's before considering roles for Manuel Rodriguez, Michael Rucker, Mark Leiter Jr., Rowan Wick, Erick Uelman, Ethan Roberts, and Jeremiah Estrada. Caleb Kilian is one fine tweak away from permanently cracking the big league roster. To be sure, quite a few of these names can start in Iowa, but there is room to make a big trade still and have plenty of depth left over after that. The remainder of the offseason should be extremely exciting for Cubs fans.