Despite the Cubs needing to focus on the remainder of the season and a possible playoff birth, the Cubs front office certainly has to consider a crazy idea: should the Cubs pursue elite starting pitcher Gerrit Cole this offseason?
This inspiration for this article comes from a Bleacher Nation post. The report stated that Buster Olney (ESPN) reported the Cubs are one of a few teams that may push heavily for Cole’s services this winter.
Gerrit Cole will certainly be one of the (if not the) biggest free agents this winter, so it makes sense that the buzz has already begun, despite there being just over a month of regular-season baseball to be played.
The initial reaction for most after this news is a sense of excitement. How great would it be for the Cubs to acquire such a big-name arm? Especially with the notion that this starting rotation is not getting any younger and there are no prospects that could immediately fill any voids in said rotation. So, the idea itself makes a lot of sense. The real intrigue will be around the notion, “How would they make it work?”
Naturally, it’s easy (and true) to gravitate to the fact the Cubs will have money falling off the books this year. Ben Zobrist‘s contract is expiring, but that is subsequently being replaced by Craig Kimbrel‘s money. Cole Hamels and his $20 million will be gone after this year, and Jon Lester only has one more year on his current deal. Multiple relievers such as Brandon Kintzler, Steve Cishek, Brandon Morrow, Derek Holland and Pedro Strop all have expiring contracts as well. There will be money available at the end of this season. On top of Lester, Tyler Chatwood only has one year after this season with big money too, which further frees up the financial situation going forward.
However, there are plenty of players due for new contracts that are also arbitration eligible, such as Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and Addison Russell. It is believed that the Cubs are going to shake things up, potentially trading some of the beloved everyday players that are currently on the roster (Bryant, Baez, or Rizzo would unlikely be part of that group). There is also belief that a player such as Nicholas Castellanos could be (and frankly should be) re-signed following the season as well. In all, there are a lot of moving pieces this offseason that could create the necessary dollars to get Cole.
Now that the “dollars housekeeping” is addressed, it’s worth diving into the reasoning why signing Cole makes sense. Ultimately, it stems around the month of August 2019.
In the month of August, Cole Hamels and Jon Lester have both struggled. In the month of August, both pitchers have an ERA of 7.29 and 8.51, respectively (via ESPN.com). In addition, both starters are among the leaders in innings pitched for the month, as they sit at 14th and 11th in the NL for the month of August. They have a large enough sample size to show they’ve struggled, and who’s not to say this is what to expect from both pitchers assuming they return next season? It’s clear an upgrade is needed in the starting rotation.
If these trends continue, pulling the trigger on Cole and letting Hamels walk would make sense. The Cubs front office just needs to ensure they can avoid having to trade or release any critical pieces on the team.
Admittedly, as much as I like the idea of Gerrit Cole in blue pinstripes, I think the better option for the Cubs is to upgrade via trade. The team has done well on the trade market overall, and an offseason trade will not require as much capital as a trade deadline move depending on the player. The Cubs can acquire an impact starter who is more affordable than Cole and keep their eyes to the future with players such as Rizzo, Bryant, and Baez.
The idea will be worth entertaining for Theo Epstein and the rest of the front office, but there are smarter moves to be made than paying yet another starting pitcher $20+ million a year. Let’s hope that no matter what, Epstein makes the correct decision for this franchise going forward.
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