The only good thing about last year’s lockout was that it split and compressed negotiating windows, funneling a whole lot of action into truncated schedules. With the CBA in place for the next few years, however, the pace of free agency appears to have turned sluggish once again as the players and teams feel each other out in a protracted game of chicken. Oh, how I’d like for Jed Hoyer to get his shoelace stuck so he’s forced to win even if it’s by accident.
Sorry, kids, that’s a Footloose reference.
While reports vary in specificity, the common theme seems to be that the Cubs will not be making huge offers right out of the gate, if at all. And with a much greater need on the offensive side, it seems as though they’ll avoid the highest tier of pitchers this time around. Koudai Senga is still very much in play because his price tag is lower, but Patrick Mooney and Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic wrote that the Cubs “aren’t going to jump out and totally reset the market” for any top starters.
We previously discussed the team’s interest in former Mets Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker, the latter of whom was mentioned in that Athletic piece. Bassitt is a better pitcher but he rejected a qualifying offer and would thus subject his new team to penalties, unlike Walker. Mooney and Sharma also mention Jameson Taillon, who did not receive a QO from the Yankees.
He’s a name Cubs fans are familiar with from his days in Pittsburgh and he’s used to pitching in a big market, but there’s not much to separate him from Walker. Neither misses many bats or gets many strikeouts, both sit around 94 mph with the fastball, and both are on the wrong side of 30. If anything, Walker gets the edge because he generates more grounders with a sinker-heavy repertoire.
Taillon and Walker are both fine pitchers and would make for solid additions to a rotation if there was a true ace already installed. The Cubs have a bunch of starters who slot into that 2-3 range, with Kyle Hendricks‘ future still looking pretty nebulous, so neither of those former New Yorkers makes much sense unless the Cubs also add Senga. If the plan is to add just one starter to the current group, I’d rather they eat the penalties to sign Bassitt.
A much more interesting — and riskier — name SharMooney advised we “file away” is lefty Andrew Heaney, who’s looked really good when he’s able to stay healthy. Heaney posted a 3.10 ERA with 110 strikeouts and 19 walks over just 72.2 innings with the Dodgers in a season limited by shoulder soreness. His career 1.63 K/9 mark is alarming as all hell, but he generates whiffs at a high level and doesn’t walk many batters.
I could see this as a flyer move to add high-upside, low-risk depth if the Cubs are able to land a safer bet elsewhere. They can afford to take their time on the pitching side because that’s a much less pressing need given current personnel. If they do end up erring on the side of value, they’re going to have to be much more aggressive when it comes to adding pop to the lineup.
More on that to come…