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Cubs Mailbag: How Can the Cubs Improve Their Starting Rotation?

Cody's Answers to your Cubs On Tap Mailbag questions! Your June 21, 2021 edition.
Chicago Cubs

Cubs Mailbag

This is the Cubs On Tap's first edition of our own mailbag. Thank you to everyone who replied to my tweet or sent me a direct message with some questions.

This team has been very fun to watch so far this season. That said, there's a lot of flaws that sometimes look alarming. Let's start with the serious questions then move to the fun ones.

Q: What would it realistically take for the Cubs to land Max Scherzer? I think most fans assume that it’d be a high price, but seeing what rental players in contract years have gone for in previous years, it may be way less than what we all fear. - @PrazMaster on Twitter

A: Scherzer has to be the most intriguing pitching commodity on the market heading into the 2021 trade deadline. If you're the Cubs, you're looking at Scherzer's age of 36 as a reason to not have to send one of your own top prospects.

Perhaps there is an organization ready to make a deep playoff push that would send their top pitching prospect in a swap, but I lean to believe the Cubs wouldn't do that given the state of the organization and uncertainty of retaining the core players Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Javier Baez.

However, if the Nationals don't receive any kind of offers involving a team's top pitching prospect, I believe the Cubs could be in a bidding war for a pitcher like Scherzer.

When the Cubs traded Yu Darvish in the offseason, they received four prospects back. All four of those prospects currently sit on the Cubs top 30 prospects list on MLB Pipeline. Perhaps the Nationals could land a trade similar to that for Scherzer, who is actually older than Darvish, but has been the model of consistency over his entire career.

I'm not sure who the Cubs would send in that kind of trade, but I believe that's more likely to happen than an organization sending a top-tier prospect for an aging pitcher. My guess is the Nationals would demand Kohl Franklin or Ryan Jensen in a swap if the Cubs mark Brailyn Marquez as an untouchable.

Q: Why didwe trade Darvish? - @realbensilver on Twitter

A: I added this question because I'm emphatically tired of answering it. This is the last time I'm going to answer it.

Yes, the Cubs desperately need a pitcher like Darvish right now, which makes the trade look atrocious as of June 21, 2021.

However, the Cubs were ranked No. 22 in baseball entering this season, before any of their top 30 prospects began playing competitively for the first time since the summer of 2019.

They were ranked No. 23 before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020. With no games to tell if players took the next step in their development, we knew that ranking would not change much.

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After a full year of development once this minor league season ends, where do you think the Cubs system will be in 2022? I expect it to take a huge leap. We have to remember, many prospects didn't play at all in 2020. It makes me wonder where their development would be if not for the pandemic.

After Theo Epstein sent Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease to our friends on the south side for Jose Quintana, the Cubs farm system dropped drastically. Sure, the Darvish trade seems like a salary dump, but for years since the Quintana trade many fans complained about the farm system's lack of depth and development.

Jed Hoyer made a very unpopular move that in the short-term seems bad, but we'll never really know until we see what Reginald Preciado, Owen Caissie, Yeison Santana, and Ismael Mena develop into.

What's more frustrating to me? The Cubs didn't sign a pitcher with a proven track record to replace Darvish. Taijuan Walker is having a career season with the Mets. He signed with New York on a three-year, $23 million contact this winter. He's making $10 million this season.

Q: What's the likelihood the Cubs retain their whole core beyond the season? What needs to happen to sway them in that direction? - @BullsGuyRob on Twitter

A: At this point, I do not believe the Cubs will be able to keep all three of Bryant, Rizzo, and Baez. My top two would be Bryant and Rizzo.

The Cubs have a lot of prospect depth on the infield, including Ed Howard, Christian Hernandez, and Preciado. Baez has not performed better than his 2018 campaign when he finished as the NL MVP runner up. His strikeout rate has gone up every season since 2018 including 27.8% in 2019, 31.9% in 2020, and an alarming 38.4% this season. Javy's on-base percentage has dropped each season too. Baez's OBP was .325 in 2018, .316 in 2019, .238 in 2020, and is .266 this season.

He's one of my favorite Cubs in my lifetime, but he's not worthy of a long-term extension worth over $100 million.

The Cubs should be able to keep two of the three and if they don't, Tom Ricketts' explanation at the Cubs Convention in January will be booed louder than when he mentioned Marquee Sports Network.

Q: What would need to happen to make the Cubs sellers at the deadline? - @BullsGuyRob on Twitter

A: The Cubs would have to start losing a lot of games over the next month to truly sell. I've said many times on Cubs On Tap that the Cubs could potentially sell a piece but still buy, similarly to the 2016 Yankees. The Yankees sold Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs for Gleyber Torres and other pieces and still managed to qualify for the AL Wild Card game that season.

Q: If Cubs make a deep playoff run should Wrigley spray paint the Ivy orange for Halloween? - @VivaLaNiko on Twitter

A: Yes. I'd love to watch Cubs Twitter have an absolute meltdown.

Q: Please build a starting 5 of Wrigley bars. - @martyLAHVelle on Twitter

A. These are based on my memories of all my adventures around Wrigleyville, so don't cancel me. Sluggers, Murphy's Bleachers, Old Crow Smokehouse, Country Club, and Brickhouse Tavern.

Thank you to everyone who sent questions. I'll try and do one of these at least once a month. You can follow me on Twitter @CodyOnTap if you have anymore questions in the meantime.