Rejoice and be glad, the Chicago Cubs took a step away from futility and began a new chapter in their process of winning a championship by acquiring ace lefty Jon Lester. Legitimate optimism returns to a fan base that has been desperately waiting for a moment where they can say, “Finally, the Cubs came out on top of something!”
In previous years, the Cubs were in a position where they were extremely careful with whom they invested their money in. As a result, the Cubs saw players such as Yoenis Cespedes, Yu Darvish, and Masahiro Tanaka decide on other landing spots. Previous failures of attempted free agent acquisitions brought uncertainty to those who believed Lester would be added to that list, and reasonably so. However, this offseason was unlike those of the past. Contrary to the last three offseasons, the Cubs’ front office was ready to spend and land a big fish; and boy is it a prize worth hanging above the fireplace.
The Cubs investing $155 million over six years for the services of Jon Lester signals two things for the team moving forward:
- One: Realistic expectations of a winning season should come as early as this year.
- Two: The Cubs are now willing to spend money they were cautiously, and strategically, saving until they felt it was appropriate.
As crazy as the idea may have sounded before the start of this offseason, the Cubs can now be included in at least a Wild Card discussion.
Having playoff aspirations is fine and dandy. The optimist in me says that, with the help of Castro, Rizzo, Bryant, Soler, and others, the Cubs can make a run at the National League Central. The realist in me says that this team is just not ready to compete with the likes of St. Louis, Los Angeles, and the reigning World Series champion Giants — at least not what they currently have, anyway.
Reports suggested that, after the Cubs signed Lester, they were not finished adding talent. Maybe another arm and/or bat — preferably an outfielder — could accompany what has already been brought in this offseason. If they are serious about competing in 2015, then the aforementioned idea should come to fruition. There are bats available, and going into detail about who would be a good fit with the Cubs is for another day. So let’s stick with pitching, shall we?
The projected Cubs rotation for next season looks like this: Jon Lester (yay), Jake Arrieta (aw yeah), Jason Hammel (alright, alright, alright *Matthew McConaughey voice*), Kyle Hendricks and Tsuyoshi Wada. Kyle Hendricks is coming off a very impressive string of starts after debuting late last year and Tsuyoshi Wada was brought back on a friendly one-year, $4 million deal. As for Hammel, it would be nice to see him slated as the fourth starter, but he acts as a reliable piece in the Cubs rotation. Arrieta and Lester’s credibility speaks for itself. To me, this is not enough.
The Cubs want to win, so go out and get another arm. Unfortunately, the Red Sox signed Justin Masterson to that one-year deal he wanted, and ended up earning $9.5 million. It was reported the Cubs were in on him and adding Masterson would have been the icing on the cake for this offseason. Epstein and company valued the right-handed pitcher at $6 million and at what the Red Sox paid (nearly $10 million), they can have him; we have Hammel for that much.
Names such as Kris Medlen, Brandon Morrow, Gavin Floyd, Josh Johnson and others are still available. However, I think the Cubs are past taking on reclamation projects, though they each have upside. As for Volquez, it was reported that he may be looking for a four-year commitment with upwards to $16.5 million/year guaranteed. I’m pretty confident that the Cubs don’t want to invest long-term in another arm at this point.
How about Jake Peavy?
Some dismissed the idea of Peavy coming to Chicago because of his questionable value and his age (he turns 34 in May). The fact that he is a rather miserable post season pitcher doesn’t help the case, either. Still, you need to actually reach the playoffs in order to bring up points like that, and Peavy can help the Cubs get there.
After being traded last season from the American League back to the National League, where he saw success early in his career, Peavy dominated. In 12 starts with the Giants he put up a 2.17 ERA (3.03 FIP) and 1.042 WHIP with 58 strikeouts, 17 walks, and 65 hits allowed in 78.2 innings. Apparently getting older did not affect his innings pitched, as he totaled 202.2 between Boston and San Francisco. Peavy was a major contributor to the Giants’ World Series title.
If Peavy were to come to Chicago, he would be pitching in a hitter-friendly park — except on days where the wind howls in. He avoided giving up the long ball in San Francisco, where he allowed just two in 67 innings, compared to 20 in 124 innings in Boston. Peavy pitches to contact, as his career 8.0 hits per nine tells us. In 2014 opposing batters hit .251 against him, mainly due to the drop in bats missed and lowered velocity. The silver lining in all of this is Peavy can still get hitters out at a regular rate.
Yet another mark in his favor is that it looks as if Peavy is finally healthy. Over the last three years the veteran pitcher has started in 32, 23, and 32 games respectively. Peavy’s strikeout numbers are down, and it will be unlikely for him to reach his career 8.5 K/9 rate anytime soon, but with fewer strikeouts come fewer walks. With the Giants, Peavy owned a very impressive 1.9 BB/9 rate, making his strikeout to walk ratio 3.41. His value is still there, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, as he accumulated a 2.1 WAR during his time in San Francisco.
Theo Epstein has made it clear this offseason that he wants to build a winning atmosphere within the clubhouse led by veterans who know what it is like to win. He’s done a good job at this point adding Joe Maddon and Jon Lester, but there is still room for a few more veterans to influence a lot of the young players who are ready to take on roles as everyday contributors. Also, the Cubs need a player who wants to win as much as the fans do.
Jake Peavy check list: Veteran? Yes. Knows what its like to win? Yes, (two rings in two years). Will to win? Yes, you can literally feel the passion from a fuming Peavy.
In an article published by the Sun-Times in October, Jake Peavy said he would not mind the idea of reuniting with his buddy Jon Lester this offseason. He also talks about how a return to Chicago would be of interest to him.
“Me and Jon are obviously very close,” he said. “If there was ever a fit with both of us on the team, certainly that would interest me. I know what he brings to the table. We have a crazy good friendship, and I know how bad he wants to win, and I know he’s not going to go to a situation for however many years he signs [for] to lose.
“You never know what free agency brings. I’ve certainly talked to Jon Lester because we’re buddies. So I have a feel for what he does. And I certainly know that Chicago would interest him and interest me.”
So, yeah, Jon Lester is here, come on down, Jake! The question is how much will he be looking to make in free agency. With Peavy, I assume he is looking for a 2-3 year contract worth $10 mil AAV, which the Cubs can totally do. Adding Jake Peavy would put the Cubs in a much better position to contend and it would suddenly make their rotation among the best in baseball. The process could potentially get ugly if the Giants want to make a push to bring him back; at that point, the price may become too steep for the Cubs to invest.
With limited arms remaining in one of the craziest offseasons in recent memory, Peavy looks to be the strongest left in the bunch. At this point, the Cubs would be pleasantly surprised if they found themselves in the thick of things come August. With an addition of Jake Peavy, the Cubs would go from the thought of the playoffs as a pleasant surprise to an expectation.
If the 2015 Cubs is a stepping stone to a real contender in 2016, then make 2015 as real as possible. Jake Peavy will do that for them.