Is Michael Wacha a suitable replacement for Marcus Stroman in the Cubs' rotation?

The former Cardinals first-rounder is one of many mid-rotation arms available in free agency who could be a fit for Chicago.

Colorado Rockies v San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies v San Diego Padres / Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/GettyImages

As top free agent starter Yoshinobu Yamamoto meets with interested teams this week, the general consensus around the game seems to be that the Japanese right-hander will wind up with either the Dodgers, Mets or Yankees.

The Cubs continue to garner loose mentions when it comes to Yamamoto, but given the fact the organization has never handed out a $200 million contract, it's highly unlikely Jed Hoyer doles out the $300+ million Yamamoto is expected to fetch.

So if they're on the outside looking in on Yamamoto, other top names like Jordan Montgomery and Blake Snell come to mind - but both of them also seem likely to command dollar amounts that will give Chicago pause. If the Cubs are going to add an impact, frontline starter, it's probably coming via trade. That being said, Hoyer could still improve the rotation depth via free agency.

In his latest free agent roundup over at The Athletic, Jim Bowden mentions the Cubs as a potential fit for former Cardinals first-rounder Michael Wacha, predicting him to net a two-year, $28 million deal this winter. While Bowden has him winding up with the Angels, it's worth examining a potential fit in Chicago.

The veteran right-hander has quietly been very solid over the last two years, spending 2022 with the Red Sox and 2023 in San Diego. During that stretch, he's made 47 starts spanning 262+ innings and worked to a 3.27 ERA and 4.01 FIP.

Never a big ground ball guy, Wacha has done a nice job limiting the hard contact against him, ranking in the 75th percentile in hard hit rate and 70th in average exit velocity last season. At first glance, I didn't feel like he checked the box for what the Cubs need - someone to replace Marcus Stroman in the rotation. But the numbers bore out a different story.

Before injuries derailed his 2023 campaign, Stroman made 19 starts, working to a 2.96 ERA, 1.110 WHIP and 2.39 K/BB ratio. Over the course of the entire 2023 season, Wacha put up a nearly identical 3.22 ERA, 1.161 WHIP and 2.88 K/BB ratio.

Depth is hardly a concern when it comes to Chicago's rotation. Behind Justin Steele, who finished fifth in NL Cy Young voting in 2023, there's a healthy mix of options, including Kyle Hendricks, Jameson Taillon, Drew Smyly, Javier Assad, Jordan Wicks and Hayden Wesneski, with top pitching prospects Ben Brown and Cade Horton waiting in the wings.

The question for the front office is whether or not you think Wacha has what it takes to be the #2 guy in the rotation behind Steele. He may have put up similar numbers to Stroman in 2023, but is that what you want? Or do you want a make a clear upgrade that immediately improves this rotation?