The Cubs turned the Hot Stove all the way to HIGH on Saturday by signing Yu Darvish to a contract for 6-years and $126 million. The entire MLB community finally had a free agent signing to analyze and obsess over, and you can even hear all of Second City Sports’ thoughts on the signing on our latest podcast episode. Our conversation this week quickly morphed into an issue Theo Epstein and Company are facing and the Darvish signing will do very little to address it.
The Cubs need pitching depth. Preferably, the kind that are young, talented and close to reaching the major leagues.
I love the Yu Darvish deal for the Cubs. Epstein took full advantage of a soft free agent market to get the best starting pitcher to agree to terms beneficial to the Cubs. If Darvish outperforms his contract after 2 years, he gets to opt-out and I’m sure Epstein won’t even bother trying to re-sign a 33-year-old pitcher looking for another huge payday. This move is a clear attempt at winning in the next two years.
That being said, the projected starting rotation for the Cubs in 2018 (Jon Lester, Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana, and Tyler Chatwood) does have some issues.
Jon Lester is 34 and his performance has to drop off eventually (it happens to everyone). Yu Darvish is 31 years old and has had Tommy John surgery once. Plus, he’s only thrown over 200 innings one time in his MLB career. Jose Quintana is coming off his most inconsistent season as a pro. Kyle Hendricks took a step back from his breakout in 2016. Tyler Chatwood defenders point to Coors Field as to why his ERA was so high, but do we know how he’ll handle pitching for a contender from a mental aspect? This rotation needs depth and Mike Montgomery isn’t enough of an insurance policy to eliminate the questions surrounding it.
The Cubs are still below the luxury tax threshold but don’t have a rotation spot available for an impact arm, so another free agent signing is unlikely. The next logical place to look for pitching depth is the minor leagues. The Cubs might have some arms to pencil in the rotation a year or two from now, but with the top pitching prospects all at AA or below, those reinforcements can’t/won’t be counted on anytime soon.
The Cubs acquired a plethora of young talent during their rebuild, but that talent is either already on the MLB roster or has been traded to supplement the young core with proven major leaguers. How Epstein will add depth to a rotation that definitely needs it is the definition of a great problem to have but it’s also something to keep an eye on in 2018 and 2019. Epstein admitted that it isn’t sustainable to fill holes with high-priced free agent signings and without minor leaguers waiting to ascend to the show this year, it will be interesting to see if he needs to add another starter and how he manages to do that down the line.