The Chicago Cubs do not need Cole Hamels

The Chicago Cubs will welcome the Philadelphia Phillies to the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field this weekend. Cole Hamels may start for the Phillies on Saturday afternoon . Or maybe, as many around baseball are beginning to believe, he will watch from the home dugout wearing a freshly pressed Cubs’ jersey [ed. note: Hamels turned in a no-hitter, striking out 13 on 129 pitches. The writer’s opinion remains unchanged, the Cubs do not need Cole Hamels.]. The Cubs are in hot pursuit of the Phillies’ ace, and have reportedly offered both Starlin Castro and Javier Baez to the Phillies. Whether that package of middle infielders who have fallen out of favor in the Chicago organization will be enough to pry Hamels away from Philadelphia remains to be seen.

Here’s the thing though.

The Chicago Cubs do not need Hamels. Same goes for David Price, another pitcher they have been connected to in trade rumors. The Cubs are chugging along in the National League wild card race locked in a fierce battle with the San Francisco Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates. The division title is out of the question.

Despite what you may be led to believe about the Cubs pursuing Price and Hamels so fiercely, starting pitching is not an area of weakness on this team. The Cubs have the fifth-best starting rotation ERA in all of baseball at 3.38. Their starters are second in the league in strikeouts, have allowed the second-fewest walks, and have the best WHIP. If there is one thing to knock Cubs’ starters for this season, it is their inability to go deep into games, as they rank tenth in the National League in innings pitched.

The reason that the Cubs are in such hot pursuit of an arm like Hamels or Price is that they have been in search of a fifth starter for the entire season. Clayton Richard has a tenuous grip on the spot right now [ed. note: Richard was optioned to the minors immediately after this was written], but it could just as easily go to Tsuyoshi Wada when he returns from a minor league rehab assignment. Wada has pitched very well in 20 starts for the Cubs over the past two seasons, but health will always be a concern for him.

The top four in the Cubs’ rotation — Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, Jason Hammel, and Kyle Hendricks — have all been very good this year. Their ERA combined is 3.07, which would rank second in the league. That the fifth spot in the rotation has been a constant shuffle should not worry the Cubs. It’s actually because of the starting rotation that the Cubs are even in position to be buyers at the trade deadline. The bullpen has blown 13 saves, third most in the league. The offense has batted just .239 and scored 361 runs on the year, thirteenth and twelfth in the league, respectively. The Cubs have an abundance of exciting young talent on the roster, but players like Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler and Addison Russell are still figuring out Major League pitching. Give it a year, and both will be superstars, but not yet.

The real areas of need for the Chicago Cubs are the outfield and bullpen, and there are plenty of options available on the trade market to be had at those positions. Rather than pursuing Hamels, the Cubs would be better suited acquiring a closer like Jonathan Papelbon, to whom they have also been linked. After acquiring Papelbon, the Cubs can turn their attentions on a corner outfielder. The Cubs have gotten by with mostly replacement level types in the outfield this year, a motley crew of .250 hitters that includes such notable names as Chris Coghlan, Junior Lake, and Chris Denorfia. Just as the Phillies have a trade target that makes more sense for the Cubs, so to do the Detroit Tigers. Instead of Price, Yoenis Cespedes provides a substantially higher upgrade to the Cubs’ roster.

The Chicago Cubs already have the horses in the starting rotation to make a run at the postseason. Adding a starter like Hamels or Price seems redundant. If the Cubs do want Price, the better move would be to pursue him aggressively this winter in free agency. It’s not hard to envision Price reuniting with Joe Maddon in Chicago, but the Cubs do not need to deal prospects to make it happen. 

There are greater weaknesses on the roster that may have higher influence on whether or not the Cubs make the playoffs, and those need to be addressed. The Cubs have the prospects to upgrade their roster and improve their playoff hopes this season, but they should not be spent on starting pitching. Count on Theo Epstein to make the right decision and address his team’s most pressing needs before July 31.

6 Responses

  1. jiml60

    Where have you heard that Castro and Baez have fallen out of favor in the Cubs organization? Or that they were both offered to the Phillies for Hamels? More speculation on the part of the Chicago media because the Epstein regime is far more tight-lipped than the Hendry crew.

    • bobbybaseball

      Doesn’t matter. It’s common sense, just look at how awful Castro has been, one of the worst players in baseball per WAR. And they already strike out more than any team,,so they certainly can’t afford to have Baez on the 25 man

    • Joshua Sadlock

      There is a link to another post within the body of my article. Jason Stark reported based on conversations with rival execs that the Cubs had offered Castro and Baez. Stark would not put something like that out there if he did not trust the source. That to me seems like a “just for show” offer. No way the Phillies would bite on either Castro or Baez. Their top hitting prospect is J.P. Crawford — a SS.

  2. bobbybaseball

    I agree. In fact, even if I thought they did need Hamels or Price, I certainly wouldn’t trade the young guys it would take to land either of them. They can’t catch the Cardinals and to mortgage the future for a one-and-done wildcard would be foolish.

  3. Johnny Ringo

    Kind of a silly article that doesn’t even make a good case why we shouldn’t have Hamels. The Cubs are going to dip into free agency next year and will most certainly pay more on the market than they would trading for Hamels. Big thing with Hamels is we get him 3 more years if we trade for him. Lester, Arrieta, and Hammel may be a good top 3 in the playoffs, but they are also not so good that they could get beat by a lot of better rival pitchers. Long story short, I think Hamels is a no brainer depending on the package.

    • Joshua Sadlock

      For Baez and Castro…sure it’s a no-brainer. But that’s honestly not going to be enough to get it done, especially with the Dodgers and Rangers in the mix. If it’s a pitcher you want, maybe Tyson Ross is a better option this year. I still think a David Price-Joe Maddon reunion is in the cards this winter. Even if it’s for $6-7 million more per season, you still want Price over Hamels. There are bigger holes in the lineup than the starting rotation, and a minor upgrade to the outfield or middle infield this season seems like a better use of prospects in the moment.


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