In 2019, starting pitching was not the Cubs problem. In fact, they were in the top 10 of the league in ERA, FIP, and fWAR for starters. That being said, they do have a decision to make. With Cole Hamels’ contract up, they have a vacancy on the starting staff.
As it sits now, their rotation is going to be the beautiful man above, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana, and Jon Lester. I’m just assuming the Cubs pick up Quintana’s option, because why wouldn’t they?
- Yu Darvish: an injury-plagued 2018 left many doubting the Cubs’ signing of Darvish, especially with Jake Arrieta’s early strong start in 2018. Yu started off shaky this season, but then turned it on the second half of the season. In those 13 games, he had an ERA of 2.76, a FIP of 2.83, and a K/9 of 13.00. He accumulated 2.5 WAR during that time, tied for 8th of all starters. He stands to have a strong 2020
- Kyle Hendricks: Kyle has been consistently a top end starter for the Cubs over the last 5 years. One may point to his rising ERA every year from 2016-2019, but they would be looking at the wrong thing. Over the last 3 years, his FIP has gone down, and his WAR has increase each year, including 4.1 this year which was his best year since 2016.
- Jose Quintana: ever since the Cubs traded Eloy and Cease for Quintana in 2017, he hasn’t been as good in his full seasons as he was with the White Sox, which has been disappointing. For that package, you were hoping you’d get someone that would be the top of your rotation. That being said, Quintana is extremely dependable. He started 30+ games every year since 2013. He was having a good 2019 until he just shat the bed in September, which was really fun.
- Jon Lester: Ole BDJ. There’s no question Jon is not the starter he was when the Cubs signed him. This very well could be Jon’s last year with the Cubs, unless he gets 200 IP, which he has not done since 2016. If it is his last year in Chicago, why don’t the Cubs just win it all for shits and giggles.
So, what are the SP options? There are internal options that aren’t terrible, and there are some good external options. MLBTR lists about 40+ SPs and I’m definitely not going to go through them all. I’ll highlight a couple worthwhile.
Some internal options are Tyler Chatwood, Alec Mills, and Adbert Alzolay.
- Tyler Chatwood: The Cubs signed Chatwood to a 3 year deal leading up to the 2018 season. They really focused on Tyler’s peripherals and Home/Road splits as his previous years were in Colorado. His walk rate dropped from 2018 to 2019 and he may warrant some looks for the Cubs rotation.
- Alec Mills: Mills was acquired from the Royals in 2017 for Deborah Dewees’ son. Mills had a couple decent starts at the back end of the season while the rest of the team was shitting away the season. His command and control are highly thought of but his stuff isn’t going to wow you. He projects as a low ceiling/high floor guy.
- Adbert Alzolay: Alzolay is probably the most exciting person on this list. He has a plus fastball, a plus curveball, and has recently developed a changeup in the last couple of years. He got an opportunity to pitch for the MLB squad this year. His first 2 outings were strong (8+ IP and one ER). His second start was rough, but he’s 24 and it’s early. If I had to bet, I’d say he’s the guy, with the last 2 as potential back-ups. This could all change if the Rickettses somehow become rich again.
Externally, there are several options out there, but here are a few:
- Gerrit Cole: Fucking duh. Gerrit is poised to make a lot of fucking money. Based on historical figures, Cole looks to make somewhere right around $30 million per year. I’m guessing Scott Boras will hope to get around 7 years, $210 million. Given that the Cubs’ Lester money ($25.8million/year) will come off after 2020, I’d like to think the Cubs could afford that.
- Madison Bumgarner: The last 3 years haven’t been as pleasant to Bumgarner. Injuries have limited him over that time. Additionally, his FIP has stayed right near 4 over that time, and he clearly isn’t the Cy Young candidate he was for the first half of the decade. I’d prefer not because he is a “play the game the right way” guy and those guys can get fucked HARD. He’ll probably be a Cardinal because fuck him
- Rich Hill: Is it time for a homecoming for Rich? No, he’s old, is trending downward, and is oft-injured.
- Jake Odorizzi: Odorizzi posted his strongest campaign yet in 2019. He had a FIP of 3.36 and an fWAR of 4.3. His fastball in 2019 is almost 2 mph faster than it was in 2018. His K/9 crossed over 10, a full k/9 up from 2018. In years past, the Cubs had been linked to Odorizzi via trade, so maybe know they can right that wrong.
- Zack Wheeler: After spending 2015 and 2016 broken, Wheeler put together 2 strong campaigns in 18 and 19. The former top-5 prospect has seemed to live up to the expectations even after his bout with Tommy John Disease.
- Hyun Jin Ryu: Ryu put together an extremely strong 2019 campaign. He led the league in ERA, and posted a 3.10 FIP. Ryu was plagued by the injury bug in 2018 and had missed almost all of 2015/16. Durability would likely be a concern with the 32 year old. Additionally, Ryu cannot receive the Qualifying Offer again, as he did receive the offer last year, and accepted it.
- Cole Hamels: I mean, you gotta factor in Hot Dad to stay. He seemingly has enjoyed his time in Chicago, but I’m not going to read *that* much into what he’s said about it. I think most players will talk up their current town. I’m sure Dexter Fowler is probably giving interviews to some Post-Dispatch lackey about how much he enjoys St. Louis. Anyway, Cole was pretty damn good through June until he got injured. In August and September, he was awful, and probably not fully healed from the injury. He’s going to be 36 when the season starts. He may accept a low AAV deal. It could be worth it for the Cubs if they feel like the trio of Chatwood/Mills/Alzolay will be able to fill in if he ever goes down, or gets really bad.
That’s just a tiny piece of the list. They could make a trade for someone not listed. The 2020 free agent list didn’t have too many standouts for teams that are shitty, so it doesn’t appear to be someone with just a year left on their deal.
If I had my druthers, I’d like to see Cole’s locks every five days. However, since the plight of the Cubs’ billionaire owners is well known, I don’t see it happening. I don’t know that I see Ryu leaving LA. I think the Mets will probably try to keep Wheeler, as well. I could be talking out of my ass. In today’s baseball free agency world, it’s really a confounding time.