Cubs' young arms get a vote of confidence as Blake Snell signs with the Giants

The fact Chicago remained on the sidelines, despite what amounted to a low-risk, short-term deal for the reigning Cy Young Award winner tells you how the organization feels about its rotation depth.

San Francisco Giants  v San Diego Padres
San Francisco Giants v San Diego Padres / Denis Poroy/GettyImages
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Another day, another high-profile Scott Boras client comes off the board on a short-term deal with an opt-out. This time, it's last year's NL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell, who inked a two-year, $62 million deal with the San Francisco Giants - a contract that falls well short of the $200+ million he and agent Scott Boras were reportedly seeking this winter.

The left-hander will make just $15 million in 2024 - with a $17 million signing bonus that won't be paid for two years. That bonus is not contingent on him opting into the second year of the deal, in which he'll earn $30 million if he sticks around. That's a modest price for a guy coming off a 2023 campaign in which he tossed 180 innings of 2.25 ERA ball for the Padres.

Given the fact the Chicago Cubs have a clear need at the top of the rotation, many have wondered whether or not Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins would get involved on Snell. I suppose one can still ask the same question when it comes to Jordan Montgomery, who is still available, but all signs seem to point to Chicago rolling into Opening Day with a rotation headlined by Justin Steele and Shota Imanaga.

Cubs are betting heavily on Shota Imanaga's game translating well

The Cubs are very high on Imanaga and believe he can be a legitimate #2 behind Steele. The rest of the league seems to believe he has a lower ceiling, but he's already showcased the strikeout tool that turned heads during his NPB career this spring.

If Chicago is going to be a legitimate contender, Imanaga has to live up to expectations. That's not to say there won't be some bumps in the row as he adjusts to facing big-league hitters, but there's too much riding on his performance for a tough first year to be something the Cubs can weather.

The same can be said for Jameson Taillon, who was drawing Edwin Jackson comparisons after his first few months on the North Side, before turning his season around following a dominant outing against his former team in the Bronx. A low back injury seems likely to delay his start to the season, but doesn't seem to be any sort of long-term concern.

Looking beyond the guys who will round out the rotation in Kyle Hendricks, Drew Smyly and Jordan Wicks, it's clear the Cubs have a lot of faith in their depth. Wicks has drawn rave reviews for his makeup since the team drafted him out of Kansas State and there's also cautious optimism that top pitching prospects Ben Brown and Cade Horton could reach Wrigley at some point this season.

The offense doesn't worry me when it comes to the 2024 Cubs. The starting rotation will decide this team's fate and, by year's end, Hoyer and Hawkins will either look like geniuses for riding with their internal options or fools for passing up a reigning Cy Young winner on what likely amounts to a one-year deal.