Cubs' rotation has plenty of depth but lacks postseason firepower

The Jameson Taillon injury lays bare the lack of power arms behind Justin Steele in the Cubs rotation, raising questions over how the team could make a deep October run.

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As Craig Counsell and the Chicago Cubs sort out a contingency plan for the rotation as Jameson Taillon works through a lingering lower back injury, it's put a magnifying glass on the pitching staff, as a whole.

There are a lot of 'ifs' when you look at this group. Justin Steele is coming off a fifth-place finish in NL Cy Young voting and the Cubs need him to, at the very least, replicate that success in 2024. Kyle Hendricks is back for his 11th season on the North Side but should be considered a mid-rotation arm at this point in his career, not the ace he was back in 2016.

Big offseason addition Shota Imanaga has swing-and-miss stuff, but there are always questions about guys making the jump to MLB from overseas. Taillon, even when healthy, has to bounce back from the worst season of his professional career in 2023 for this rotation to be considered stable. Now, with some combination of Drew Smyly, Hayden Wesneski, Javier Assad and Jordan Wicks rounding out the staff - the depth this team has is clear.

What it lacks is guys you're comfortable with starting must-win games in October.

Cubs need more power, dominance at the top of the starting rotation

It's not that there is a lack of potential solutions to this problem out there. Reigning NL Cy Young winner Blake Snell is still out there, as is Jordan Montgomery. But given the high price tag, the Cubs haven't been serious about a Snell pursuit and there's no reason they'll bite on a Montgomery signing, either.

Steele would start Game 1 of any postseason series and, sure, Hendricks has an impressive postseason resume. But there's no one else in that group you feel really good about handing the ball to against, say, the Atlanta Braves or Los Angeles Dodgers come the postseason. Hopefully, someone from the pack emerges over the course of the year as a cohort for Steele atop the rotation or one of the team's top pitching prospects makes the jump to the big flawlessly.

But, right now, there's a big gap between the best teams in the league in terms of starting pitching and where the Cubs are at. The front office has done a decent job raising the floor of the group, as a whole, but the ceiling remains well below clubs considered legitimate World Series contenders.