What an all homegrown Cubs pitching staff could look like
Back in 2019, The Chicago Cubs were having a bit of an existential crisis. President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein was on his way out, and his team was struggling mightily to reach the heights they did in 2016. After years of an overall strategy focused on developing position players while supplementing their roster with free-agent pitching signings, the Cubs decided to make a change. While this strategy worked for a time and nabbed the team four straight playoff appearances, it proved to not be sustainable for long-term success. Hence, the organization-wide overhaul which turned the focus into drafting, acquiring, and developing pitching.
With the hiring of guys like Craig Breslow, who is currently one of Jed Hoyer's assistant General Managers, this transition has been successful from the top down. Justin Steele, Keegan Thompson, and Javier Assad are all excellent examples of how this pitching focus is already impacting the big league roster. With 1-2 more years of development, it is not out of the realm of possibility to see nearly the entire pitching staff at Wrigley Field comprised of home-grown guys, which Jed Hoyer has called a goal. Here is what that Cubs pitching staff could look like in one or two years.
Justin Steele has already emerged as a trusted big-league starting pitcher, and he is looking to take another big step this year. At just 27 years old and under club control until 2028, Steele will be a huge part of this team moving forward. Behind him is a wealth of starting pitching depth that stretches all the down to the rookie ball level after the 2022 draft saw the Cubs take Cade Horton and Jackson Ferris. Those two are currently ranked by MLB as the Cubs No. 4 and No. 9 prospects respectively, pretty good for guys who haven't even made their professional debut yet.
With all that depth, The Cubs likely would not elect to resign guys like Marcus Stroman, who has an opt-out clause after 2023, or Kyle Hendricks, who has a club option for 2024. Instead, they can fill those rotation spots with in-house options like Caleb Killian, Javier Assad, or Jordan Wicks.
Here is what the Cubs rotation could look like in 1-2 years:
1. Jameson Taillon
2. Hayden Wesneski
3. Justin Steele
4. Javier Assad
5. Jordan Wicks
Other options: Caleb Killian and Keegan Thompson
Since Taillon signed a 4-year deal, he will be around for a while, but I don't see the Cubs perusing the talents of Stroman or Hendricks any further. In addition to being convenient to fill your rotation with home-grown guys, it is extremely cost-effective. All the money saved from these cheap rookie contracts will allow the Cubs to spend big on position players or a top-of-the-rotation ace like Aaron Nola or Julio Urias. Not to mention the guys who don't earn a job in the rotation can slot nicely into the bullpen.