What is the Cubs rotation going to look like next year? Since Theo Epstein and his crew took over four years ago, the Cubs rotation has been a rotating door of players and next season might be the first year that players leave midseason.
Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks have cemented their spots, but the rest is up for grabs and there are a variety of options for the Cubs to choose from. The number one name that will be linked to the Cubs is Jon Lester.
If the Masahiro Tanaka talks last off-season taught us anything is that the Cubs are ready to spend big bucks on pitching. The Cubs have openly said that they will spend money for pitching when the time is right, and with Lester as the top left-handed pitcher in free agency there is no reason why the Cubs would not pursue him.
Since 2008 Lester has only failed to reach 200 innings pitched once. The ability to pitch deep into games will surely help a Cubs bullpen who threw the 2nd highest amount of innings among relievers in the majors this season, only to the Los Angeles Angels.
After Lester, David Price and Cole Hamels are other left handed possibilities. Both and Hamels have been linked to the Cubs this past season, Price is set for arbitration this season, but the Tigers are unsure if they will re-sign him considering Max Scherzer is a free agent, too. Scherzer has already declined a big contract from Detriot and will most likely be asking for one similar to Justin Verlander, who is making over $20 million. With that possibility the Tigers will not have much to spend.
The Cubs will likely continue talks with the Phillies on Hamels. During the wavier deadline, the Cubs made a claim on Hamels, but were not able to agree on a deal. Hamels is set to make $22.5 million over the next 4 seasons, which is around what Lester will likely be getting. If the Cubs cannot land Lester, they will attempt to try and put together a deal for Hamels, who like Lester, collects a lot of innings.
The back end of the rotation is still up in the air. Edwin Jackson is still under contract for two more seasons and unless the Cubs can move him, he will most likely start the year as the number five starter. There are options for the final spot in the Cubs rotation, both within the organization and free agency.
Travis Wood seems like the best choice, but this past season may have changed things. After an All-Star season in 2013, Wood turned down a four-year deal with the Cubs trusting his own play for 2014 and it backfired. His 5.03 ERA is a career worse, and arbitration will determine if the Cubs still have faith in Wood. Other in house choices include Tsuyoshi Wada, Fleix Doubront, and Jacob Turner. Turner may be the dark horse if pitching coach, Chris Bosio can work the same magic that he did with Arrieta. Turner is only 23, and a former top prospect with past success, but struggled this past season.
The Cubs might go with another short term free agent signing as they have the past few seasons. Some of the most successful deals under Theo & Co. have been players under one-year contracts, most notably, Scott Feldman, Paul Maholm, and Jason Hammel. Ex-White Sox pitcher Gavin Floyd has had success in the past when healthy, Brandon McCarthy and Justin Masterson are other possible veterans who have pitched well in the past that could draw interest if they pitch well. Theo and Hoyer have said that they want veteran pitchers to help with their young ballclub.
Ideally, the Cubs would like to go with experience pitchers, but it seems they will keep their options open. One this is for sure and that is the Cubs will be active this offseason. They will go after the big names and they will spend money.
Cub fans should be excited.