In any other offseason, the Chicago Cubs would undoubtedly have interest in big-name aces on the trade market. But this winter – that’s clearly not the case.
For years, the Chicago Cubs wanted to trade for young, cost-controlled starting pitchers. This offseason it appears that both Noah Syndergaard and Corey Kluber are available via trade. In any other year, they would be the focus of the Cubs’ offseason moves, but not this year.
Right now the rotation for next season appears to be set. After the Cubs picked up Cole Hamels‘ option for 2019, the Cubs have, at a minimum, six starting pitchers for a five-man rotation. Hamels will be joined by Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Yu Darvish in the rotation. Mike Montgomery and Tyler Chatwood will likely not begin the season as starting pitchers but are capable of taking the ball, as well.
In July 2017, the front office was finally able to trade for a young, cost-controlled starting pitcher in Quintana. That move marked the turning point in the season for Chicago. The Cubs came roaring out of the All-Star Break, quickly erasing the lead Milwaukee had built up in the division.
In 2018, Quintana pitched a lot like the rest of the rotation. He didn’t pitch deep into games early in the year. However, at the end of the season the starting rotation was the part of the team that was playing the best. Quintana had a special knack for facing and beating the Brewers.
One of the primary reasons Chicago could go out and sign Yu Darvish last winter? The Quintana acquisition and the cost-control he came with. That being said, when the Cubs traded away top prospects Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease they were hoping for more than just a low-cost starter in the rotation.
You lie in the bed you made
Syndergaard and Kluber are not just innings eaters. They are among the best starting pitchers in baseball. If the Cubs had an opening in their starting rotation and the prospect capital to trade from, we would be hoping each day to hear that the Cubs had traded for one of them. Instead, this offseason many Cubs fans have fantasies of signing a big free agent bat – namely Bryce Harper or Manny Machado.
If the Cubs still had Jimenez and Cease to trade away, they would be able to work out a deal for Syndergaard or Kluber. But part of the reason such a trade would be possible is because Jimenez and Cease are so much further along in their development now than when they were actually traded away. When the White Sox made the trade with the Cubs in 2017, Jimenez and Cease were not guaranteed to become contributors at the major league level. That was especially true with the latter.
At the end of the 2018 season, Jimenez appeared to be the most recent victim of the Kris Bryant service time scenario. Cease was just recently added to the White Sox 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. So both players could be in the Majors next season.
It’s very easy to look back at trades involving top prospects and, with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, wish the Cubs utilized their resources in a different way. Obviously, Syndergaard or Kluber would be big-time additions to the pitching staff.
But Chicago made their choice in Quintana. He helped turn around and extend their 2017 season, allowed the front office to add a primetime arm last winter and did everything he could to fend off the Brewers in 2018. This is what the Cubs went with – and because of this move, they’ll sit on the sidelines for much of this winter.