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Fifth starter options abound heading into offseason

Chicago Cubs

(Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)

Four of the five starting rotation spots appear to be under lock. But the Chicago Cubs have a critical decision to make regarding that fifth and final berth.

Let’s just start with the elephant in the room – the Chicago Cubs seemingly botched signing of right-hander Tyler Chatwood. Last offseason, Theo Epstein kicked off the winter by signing the former Colorado Rockies right-hander to a three-year, $39 million deal.

He led all of Major League Baseball in base-on-balls, pitched to a 5.30 ERA, 1.804 WHIP and .089 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 103 2/3 innings. That’s right – he walked more guys than he struck out. Late in the season, Chicago went away from Chatwood and the guy barely saw the mound in the final month.

Can the Cubs afford to go into next season with Chatwood penciled in the starting rotation? Remember, he still has two years and $25.5 million left on that deal.

Chicago managed to keep Chatwood on the 25-man roster until the Sept. 1 roster expansion. After that, they were able to hide him deep at the end of the bullpen. The hope, at least for the Cubs, is that Chatwood can work with Jim Hickey this offseason to get himself right.

However, as Cubs fans have learned the last two seasons of Jason Heyward working on his swing taught us that offseason improvements don’t mean anything until we see it working in the regular season. So, it will be difficult to have any confidence in Chatwood until he consistently pitches well.

I don’t think the Cubs can count on Chatwood next season. I don’t even think the Cubs should allow him to hold a 25-man roster spot hostage the way Edwin Jackson did in 2015. The money will be difficult to swallow. Maybe the front office can dump part of his contract on a team hoping to buy low on Chatwood. But I don’t think a team that is looking to compete for another World Series should begin the season by counting on someone who performed as badly as Chatwood did this year.

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