The Chicago Cubs have had arguably the best starting rotation in baseball across the last month; they’ve also had one of the best rotations throughout much of the year. However, with Tsuyoshi Wada and Clayton Richard currently set to occupy the fifth and would-be sixth rotation options, upgrades can, and probably should, be made.
The big names –namely Cole Hamels, and to a lesser extent Johnny Cueto– are naturally garnering the most attention, but it’s hard to see the Cubs looking that big at the current juncture. They are more competitive than initially thought, but it would also seem they would be looking for low-to-moderate risk players with upside; it seems entirely counterintuitive that the Cubs would blow up their system for a guy –i.e. Hamels– who is on the wrong side of 30, and is one awkward pitch away from ruining the whole operation.
A guy like Scott Kazmir makes a whole lot more sense.
The 31-year-old southpaw has had a great season. He has a sparkling 2.38 ERA, an equally sparkly WHIP of 1.09, and is holding opponents to a .209 batting average. Across his last seven starts, he’s holding hitters to .175, and has an ERA of 1.35. The advanced numbers look relatively strong, too. His FIP is 3.02, indicating a little fortune in Kazmir’s favor, but still plenty respectable. And he’s throwing a lot more cutters than he ever has. Apparently, this is a good development.
His great performance has undoubtedly raised the asking price (along with the reality that there are several teams reportedly interested in Kazmir’s services), but Kazmir is in the last year of his contract. With the Oakland Athletics rarely willing to open their checkbook too wide, they are more than likely wanting a return for someone like Kazmir if he’s going to walk at the end of season anyway.
From the Cubs angle, Kazmir will not command the type of prospects that Hamels or Cueto would –if he starts to, it’s time to walk away. Kazmir also has the highest ground ball rate of his career (45.9%), which is usually a good idea if a pitcher is coming to Wrigley.
The Cubs don’t need another ace pitcher right now (sure, you’d always take one), they need a quality arm to fill out the rotation. Kazmir could be that arm. Relatively low risk, relatively high reward. For the 2015 Cubs, that equals perfect.
Go get the big ticket player in the offseason, when you don’t have to part with half of your farm system to land them.