5 Burning Questions for the Chicago Cubs offseason

Division Series - St Louis Cardinals v Chicago Cubs - Game Four

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4.) How will the bullpen be upgraded?

The Cubs reshaped their bullpen rather well down the stretch with Fernando Rodney and Trevor Cahill. Both were big reclamation projects, and both were very good after joining the Cubs. Rodney and Cahill are both free agents this winter. Cahill is more likely to be re-signed as he will be only 28 on Opening Day to Rodney’s 39. Rodney was awful in 2015 for the Seattle Mariners before the trade. His resurgence may have been a product of switching to the National League for the first time in his career. Cahill may find interest on the open market due to the relative lack of depth for solid seventh or eighth inning pitchers. Again, the Cubs will have to really look long and hard at Cahill and determine if the good results he put up are repeatable over a full season.

Hector Rondon was very good as the closer. If the Cubs are smart (and something tells me Theo Epstein is pretty sharp), they will stay out of the trade market for an established closer like Craig Kimbrel or Aroldis Chapman. There’s no need. Rondon has the stuff and makeup to close, and he proved it last year. The Cubs should be in hot pursuit of Darren O’Day or Joakim Soria. Either of those two could set up for Rondon. O’Day is the best reliever on the market, and virtually every contending team will have an offer in on him. Where he ends up is really up to him. Ryan Madson is another name for the Cubs to consider, as is Tony Sipp. The Cubs will have to sign at least one veteran bullpen arm this winter.

2 Responses

  1. DancingInPDX

    Nice piece Josh. I guess the over-arching question I have: what is the Cubs’ strategy for starting pitching, both short and long term? What’s clear is that the Cubs don’t have any sure-thing starters coming up through their system – even our top pitching prospects aren’t elite. So the two options are obviously FA signings or trades, or some combination.

    The prevailing assumption is that the Cubs will go after Price or some other elite FA SP, spending $200M over 6 years, or something like that. The benefit is that we’ll have 2 years of an exceptional 1-2-3 punch in our rotation. But after that we have problems. Arrieta becomes a free agent, and until the massive Tribune bankruptcy debt comes off the books and the new TV contract(s) kick in, both in 2020, it doesn’t seem feasible the Cubs can hold onto him. What’s more, Lester and Price (presumably) will be squarely in their declining years, while burning $50M annually.

    What’s more, what is the actual amount of value a 30yo SP like Price will provide over 6-7 years, in terms of WAR? Now compare that to the same amount of money being spent on, say, Jason Heyward? At 26 Heyward is likely to average a WAR of over 6.0 for the next 6 years. Compare that to David Price who’s WAR has averaged less than 3.0 over the past 5 years, and will certainly decline.

    My point is, if we’re going to spend $200M on someone, why not get Heyward for 8 years, most of which will be prime years? In so doing it frees up another one of our elite and cheap position players to be traded for a cheap and controllable arm. Between Baez, Soler, Almora, Happ, McKinney and Torres, we should have enough young talent to bring in Carrasco and one other mid-20’s pitching stud.

    Financially the two options are equivalent, but the long-term value of the second option is far superior, in my view.

    • Joshua Sadlock

      Maybe none of that will matter when the Cubs have their own TV netork ;)


      Now, getting back to business, it’s hard to predict what exactly the Cubs will do with Arrieta. He’s a Boras guy, and Boras is not one to negotiate extensions before free agency. He may make an exception in Arrieta’s case given the backstory. Still think the Cubs would like to see one more year out of him before committing big time.

      Your point about Lester and Price is a good one. Hated the Lester signing last year (or at least the value of the contract). Lester just seems like a guy who is getting by on his reputation with the Red Sox. Seems like a two being paid like a one who will be a three in another year (still being paid like a one!). Not sure I see the same drop off coming with Price. Who knows.

      Heyward is an interesting name. There are probably all kinds of regression models out there that can tell you whether Heyward or Price is the better investment. I don’t know what you’re getting from Heyward either though, necessarily. Is he the guy who had a good year for the Cardinals or the guy who had a really good rookie year for the Braves and then struggled? Lot of uncertainty with him before you commit to 8 years and $200 million. I think for what the Cubs really need, starting pitching, Price is a better investment than Heyward. In an ideal world, the Cubs would be able to get Alex Gordon for four years, but the market will likely dictate that he’s a five year player.


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