So far this winter, the Chicago Cubs have focused on pitching, pitching, and more pitching. After inking starter Tyler Chatwood to a three year deal, the club turned to the bullpen. Righties Brandon Morrow and Steve Cishek will join a bullpen corps that struggled mightily in the postseason. As it stands now, the Cubs 2018 starting rotation will include Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana, Chatwood, and one of Eddie Butler, Alec Mills, or Mike Montgomery. The ‘pen could include a combination of Morrow, Cishek, Carl Edwards Jr., Pedro Strop, Justin Grimm, and Dillon Maples from the right side, with Justin Wilson, Dario Alvarez, and Montgomery representing left-handed options. While this possible pitching staff could be formidable, it likely doesn’t make you confident in a 2018 World Series berth.
In addition, the Cubs have not made any significant moves to address the lineup or bench, which may stay true throughout the rest of the offseason. However, this club severely lacks overall speed and an obvious backup catcher. So, what else can the club do?
1. 5th Starter
Although Mike Montgomery has been relatively good in his time as a starter, he has proven to be much more valuable to the Cubs as a key lefty reliever and swingman. Other options include Eddie Butler and Alec Mills, but neither pitchers have proven themselves at the MLB level. Instead of turning to one of these three options, the Cubs could go for buy-low options such as Chris Tillman. If the team decides to go with a more high-end option, Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, and Lance Lynn are all still available. I would advise against spending $100+ on Darvish or Arrieta though.
I think the Cubs could definitely go into 2018 with the bullpen they have today, but several solid relievers remain on the free agent market. Lefties Tony Watson and Brian Duensing would make sense, especially if the Cubs intend on giving Montgomery a chance as a starter at the beginning of the season. The team lacks a dominant closer at the moment so Greg Holland remains a potential target, but he is likely to get a massive deal after the contract Wade Davis signed with the Rockies. If the Cubs aren’t interested in any remaining free agents, Alex Colome represents a logical trade target for the team.
3. Position Player Depth
Christian Yelich is not coming to the North Side unless Theo and Jed have a sudden change of heart and sell multiple position players like Ian Happ and Albert Almora Jr. The problem is that Yelich is under control through 2021 at a bargain of a salary. Guys like that don’t come cheap. Happ and Almora Jr. alone wouldn’t be enough to draw the Marlins attention, so the Cubs would also have to throw in 1-2 top prospects as well.
Instead of making a major splash with Yelich or Lorenzo Cain, I would go into Opening Day with Almora Jr. as the everyday center fielder. I like Cameron Maybin or other similar low-cost depth options to give the club some speed. The other main question mark is at backup catcher. Former Cub Rene Rivera made sense to me, but he signed a deal with the Los Angeles Angels yesterday. Victor Caratini is the in-house option, but with Willson Contreras taking the vast majority of playing time for the foreseeable future, he represents a trade chip. Alex Avila has said that going to a contender was more important to him than getting a starting role. He is somewhat familiar with the Cubs’ pitching staff and is capable of taking over everyday if Contreras would happen to go down with an injury.