If your offseason began with visions of Shohei Ohtani or Yoshinobu Yamamoto putting on Cubs caps in introductory press conferences at Gallagher Way, you're probably living a pretty disappointing life as a fan.
With the Japanese superstars joining forces in Los Angeles and the Cubs reportedly out on Shota Imanaga as well, it's time to do what we do best: pivot our attention to the budget-concious, wallet-friendly middle-of-the-rotation options that aren't sexy, but we hope will be enough to reinforce a pitching staff that had a lot of success stories in 2023.
Chicago Cubs linked to Sean Manaea, James Paxton and Matt Moore
Over at The Athletic (subscription required), while assessing the increasingly unlikely chances the Cubs land Imanaga, Patrick Mooney name-dropped a trio of arms that we'll dig into a little bit here: Sean Manaea, James Paxton and Matt Moore.
Manaea, a former first-rounder who turns 32 in February, spent the 2023 season with the San Francisco Giants, where he got his first taste of bullpen work, making 27 relief appearances to go along with 10 starts, totaling 117 2/3 innings. He worked to a 4.44 ERA, but a even more solid 3.90 FIP, relying on his tall frame for some elite extension (ranking in the 96th percentile).
The versatility the left-hander showed could be of particular interest to the Cubs, who have swung guys back and forth fairly successfully for years now. If depth is the name of the game, this is a guy who could certainly fill that need for Chicago.
Turning our attention to Paxton, who turned 35 in November, we're looking at a guy who, frankly, hasn't been what he once was in a few years now. Since the start of the 2020 season, the lefty had made just 25 starts (19 of them coming last year), working to a 4.90 ERA and 4.60 FIP.
While Manaea still has some upside given his age and versatility, Paxton feels very much like a back end of the rotation, roll-of-the-dice option. He bounced back, to a degree, in 2023, but he's not somebody you can really rely on either for quantity or quality. For me personally, the Cubs need to take a rain check here.
Last, but not least, another veteran we've talked about in years past: Matt Moore. Moore, a former All-Star early in his career as a starter with Tampa Bay, has successfully evolved into a quality reliever in the last couple years. In 2023, he worked to a 2.56 ERA/3.73 FIP in 50 appearances for the Guardians, Angels and Marlins.
Since he made the full-time jump to the pen, Moore carries a 2.20 ERA in 113 appearances - and he could be a nice veteran option from the left side in Chicago, a team that desperately needs left-handed relief help. If the Cubs can, at long last, nab the journeyman, it could go a long way toward deepening the pen in 2024.