The Chicago Cubs have an obvious problem, one that if not fixed soon will be a major hurdle in their competing for the division title and maybe even one of the two Wild Card spots. That flaw is their starting rotation.
While the top three pitchers are pitching well, the back end of their rotation are doing more harm than good. Neither Travis Wood or Kyle Hendricks are doing much to help the team. In fact, they are struggling to even go five full, rarely pitching into the sixth inning. That is severely taxing the Cubs bullpen, forcing Joe Maddon to rely heavily on the middle relief corps which has not been all too good.
WIth Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Jason Hammel in the front of the rotation, the Cubs are pretty set, but Wood and Hendricks are another story. I am not sure how long the Cubs can stick with them if they want to have a reasonable chance to contend for anything this season.
The easiest choice would be to move Wood to the bullpen, and replace him with Edwin Jackson who has been pretty solid in relief, until tonight anyway when he gave up three run without getting an out. That is what people call an ERA killer. Inserting Jackson into the starting rotation would be a tough pill for some fans to swallow; even if he is replacing Wood. Let’s be honest. Outside of a magical 2013, Wood has not been a pitcher you want to see taking the bump every fifth day.
The Cubs have a couple arms in the minors who could get the call. Dallas Beeler and Tsuyoshi Wada are both options, but both are currently on the disabled list and rehabbing, but they are rehabbing in Iowa. Unfortunately, neither one is throwing all too well. Eric Jokisch might get a look if needed, but he might not be a great addition either. However, he just pitched in a game and lines up perfectly with Wood’s spot in the rotation, so that is something to keep an eye on.
The problem with replacing Wood in the rotation though, unless he is replaced by someone currently on the 25 man roster, someone will have to be designated for assignment. The likely candidates would be Wood or Jackson. Due to amount owed to both, Wood is the most likely to be given his walking papers. He is already a sunk cost on the year, so there is not really much of anything to lose other than money.
Of course, the Cubs could also pull off a trade. The two most talked about names are Cole Hamels and Johnny Cueto. Neither one will be cheap, or easy to land as there will be multiple suitors for both.
Cueto would likely be cheaper than Hamels, but he would still cost a great deal of prospects and likely a few top ones. Unlike Hamels, Cueto is a one year rental. His contract is up at the end of the year, and you could win up sending away some players you would rather keep for a few months and a chance to contend. That is unless you can sign him in free agency at the end of the year.
Hamels would cost a lot of top prospects and a lot of money. Even though Phillies owner John Middleton has offered to eat some of Hamels contract, he will not eat all of what is owed, and is still asking for a king’s ransom for his stellar pitcher. According to some reports, the Phillies are asking for Cubs second baseman Addison Russell as a starting piece with more prospects added in. With other teams likely in the mix once the fire sale begins, the Cubs have little to no leverage in any deal. I cannot see the Cubs dealing Russell, so the chances of landing Hamels are very slim.
Honestly, I am not sure the Cubs will be serious contenders for either one considering the cost involved. There are some prospects and players who are coveted by other teams that the Cubs do not want to part ways with; most notably Russell and Kris Bryant.
I am not sure what the Cubs will do, but there has got to be some changes made. WIth the pitching staff they currently have, this is going to be a very long season. They have got to cut bait with some people and eat the cash in order to get some fresh arms on the active roster, and bring in starters who can actually last longer than four or five innings.