Pitching could go from question mark to strength in Cubs farm system next season

When it comes to the Cubs farm system, the Cubs have spent their first round picks on the best, most polished hitter available.  Two of those hitters, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber, are already key contributors.  The other two, Albert Almora and Ian Happ, may  not carry the same star quality, but they are still top 10 prospects who have a chance to have an impact on the Cubs future.  The Cubs have also spent big IFA money on hitters with Gleyber Torres being the team's top prospect and Eloy Jimenez being the power hitter with the highest ceiling still in the Cubs system.  The Cubs have also acquired hitters via trade, most notably Addison Russell, but also Billy McKinney, who some feel is the Cubs 2nd best prospect behind Torres.

But it hasn't just been the high profile guys.  The development of catcher Willson Contreras has been big.  Mark Zagunis is the system's most disciplined hitter and Chesny Young is their best contact guy.  He may take a big step forward too if he adds some strength.  Donnie Dewees, Charcer Burks, Frandy De La Rosa, Wladimir Galindo, DJ Wilson...we could go on and on as far as position players with the hit tool to make it to the bigs.

But while praise has been lavished on the Cubs ability to scout hitters, and deservedly so,  pitching has always seemingly been an afterthought.   The Cubs have waited until beyond the first round in the draft and beyond their primary targets in the IFA season to dig up pitching.  Rather than put a lot of money  into one single pitcher, the Cubs have chosen to attack that area with volume.

More so than good hitters, pitchers can be found just about anywhere. The pitchers that have high ceilings and high floors are few and far between in the amateur ranks, so by picking pitchers later in the draft, the Cubs had to take on guys with more projection than polish. And that takes time to develop. So while we haven't yet seen it at the MLB level, that may indeed be starting to happen with the Cubs.  They'll have to fill in from outside the organization in the short term, but that need may abate somewhat in the next few years.

The Cubs do have some good pitchers with MLB ability who maybe close to contributing, most notably Pierce Johnson, but also breakout prospects Ryan Williams and Brad Markey. There are other pitchers who could breakout and join this category next year: Jake Stinnett,Jonathan Martinez, Paul Blackburn, Tyler Skulina, Erick Leal, and Daury Torrez to name a few.

They're names to watch, but you won't find scouts who see them as guys who will fill out the top 3 of an MLB rotation -- which has been the main criticism of the Cubs farm system.

In all honesty, the Cubs don't have that kind of prospect at all right now -- but they do have pitchers with the ability to become the kind off top 100 level prospects that can transform their farm system.

Here are some names to file away...

Top End Potential

Duane Underwood

To me, Underwood is a top 5 prospect in the Cubs system and I'd consider putting him as high as #2.  His fastball is consistently 94-96 and he has learned to cut it to create more movement without losing much velocity.  The curveball has become more consistent and has a chance to be a plus pitch. The change up is getting to the point where it may someday give him a 3rd plus pitch.

Above that, Underwood has learned the art of pitching. He is no longer afraid of contact and has used the movement on his fastball to generate quick, easy outs -- a skill that will serve him well as he moves up.  The command has improved every season and now projects as at least average, but given his young age, athleticism, and coachability then I am not going to rule out that becoming a plus for him as well.

Dylan Cease

Cease isn't the biggest picture, but he is athletic and has a strong build to go with an easy, effortless delivery that generates high 90s heat -- and in fact, I saw him hit triple digits in one rookie league game.

It's really hard to evaluate Cease beyond that right now because he was just returning from Tommy John surgery but  his amateur history suggests that he can spin a good curve as well.  He didn't throw many of them this year but I expect that is something he will work on again this fall now that he has regained strength and stamina.

Cease is also a good kid with a strong work ethic.  He's always at the game, always attentive, respectful, and I've seen signs that he can develop into a leader.  On the mound, he's a bulldog and he'll go right after hitters.  To me, he has the mental makeup to match his physical skills.

Bryan Hudson

It took us a long time to see Hudson so you didn't see me talk about him much.  As it is, I got to see him pitch once and so while we can't make any judgment based on statistical results, the athleticism was evident.  I know that Hudson played basketball but he's so tall and thin that I half-expected to see arms and legs flying out of sync.  That was not the case at all.  Hudson had a smooth, athletic delivery and was able to  generate 89-91 mph heat -- but I'd be surprised if that doesn't jump a few ticks as he  physically matures and gets stronger.  He also threw a couple of pretty good curves, which has a chance to be a plus pitch in time.  He's all project now but he's someone I really look forward to seeing in instructs this fall.

Mid-rotation arms

Carson Sands

Sands has a good feel for pitching, a good curve, and a fastball that sits in the 90-93 range.  The change also shows signs of being an above average pitch as well.  Sands has been up and down with his command but that has the makings of being above average as well.  There isn't a single thing that stands about Sands that makes you stand up and say, "Wow!", he is more of a well-rounded pitcher who does a lot of things well.  That profiles him more as a mid-rotation type than a top of the rotation pitcher, but he has a chance to be a steady reliable pitcher that will consistently keep his team in games.  He has an ideal pitcher's frame at 6'3", 205 lbs that give him a chance to be a durable innings eater.

Justin Steele

Stuff-wise, Steele is similar to Sands in terms of his velocity (90-93) and the good curve.  They also differ in a few areas.  His change-up is not yet as good as Sands' and he also has a smaller build (6'1", 180).  What I do like about Steele is that he has a bit more deception.  The arm action is relatively short and he has a high leg kick, so as I stood behind home, it was difficult for me to pick up the ball until it was close to the release point.  Hitters seemed to react similarly and the stats bear it out as well.  Steele missed more bats than Sands did with just less than one strikeout per inning.

Oscar De La Cruz

Listed at 6'4", 200 lbs., De La Cruz has outgrown that and has picked up a few ticks on his fastball, routinely sitting in the 93-95 range with potential for more.  He's the least advanced in this entire group in terms of his secondaries but the combination of velocity, surprisingly good command, movement and natural plane on  his fastball was more than enough to dominate NWL hitters.

But if he is going to be a starter he'll have to continue to sharpen his secondaries, which is undoubtedly something he'll work on this fall.  He may have the furthest to go in this  group along with Cease, but the good fastball is a great foundation to build on.

Trevor Clifton

Clifton is my pitching version of Willson Contreras.  I liked the raw tools and the work ethic from the start, even before the production matched the talent.  And like Contreras, it will take him a bit of time before he puts it together but when and if that happens, it's going to happen quickly.

What Clifton has right now is good athleticism, arm strength (up to 96 mph), a curve that flashes plus, and a change which has shown improvement this year.  Clifton had his ups and downs this year as the Cubs are obviously grooming him as a starter.  He could have gotten by pretty well with his FB-CB combo, but he was willing to take a step back to work on his change as well as learning how to set up hitters and learning the art of pitching in general.  In simple terms, he took strides toward being a pitcher instead of just a thrower.

If Clifton can continue to improve his command and feel for pitching, he has a chance to become a starter that fits somewhere in that top three, but it may take some patience.



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  • Markey takes a no hitter into the 8th tonight in Game 2 of the Pelicans playoff series.

    Curious as to your thoughts on Markey and Ryan Williams. Are they MOR guys or back end guys? Statistically they are so dominant but their stuff doesn't stand out. Maybe they are in the mold of Kyle Hendricks.

    Markey should be at AA and Williams at AAA next year, so we will see if they are for real.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    I like them both but this was an article focusing on upside/ceiling. Markey can hit as high as 96 with a good curve and great command -- but he is somewhere between 5'9 and 5'11, so the odds are against him sticking as a starter -- not that he can't, but the odds say it is unlikely.

    Williams doesn't have dominant stuff but there is no reason he can't be an MLB starter but probably a 4/5 guy.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Hey John- seemed like Jeremy Null was really progressing mid season then didn't seem to hear much after the break. What kind of long term potential do you see there? Thanks for all you do, awesome site.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    I really like both pitchers, but each has a lower ceiling than the guys John listed in the article. They both have above average command.

    Williams has a good two seamer that he throws with good plane and keeps down. His secondaries are a tick below average, but he mix and matches well. I think he could eventually put up the type of numbers we have seen from Hendricks this season.

    Markey has better stuff, with mid 90s fastball and above average curve. The question with him, and all short pitchers really, is whether advanced hitters will be able to take advantage and get under his pitches more easily leading to more HRs. His is well built, so I don't have concerns regarding stamina as a starter, but his height and two pitch mix may limit him to the bullpen. He could be a good bullpen guy though.

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    In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Markey sounds like Corey Black, except with command....

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Curveball instead of slider, and much better command, but as far as height and the concern of eventually moving to the pen, yes. I do think Markey has a chance to remain as a starter though. Black was always expected to move to the pen because of his combination of size and lack of command. Markey only has one of those concerns.

  • Great info, John, thank you. We do have arms, both steady and potential. I believe in the front office's approach. You can buy pitching. I heard a great comment by a GM, can't remember who, but he was asked why his organization didn't invest more (read: sign big-name free-agents) in pitching. His answer was simple: pitching breaks. I love the Cubs focus on aquiring and developing young hitting. Even at the highest level of scouting and talent evaluation, pitching projection can be a crap-shoot. They have been very transparent by saying they will just throw quantity at pitching. We all hope something sticks. And you can buy pitching.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Exactly. I think as far as high end guys, this is the best shape the system has been in quite some time. If at least one of them turns out as a top 3 guys, then I'd be happy with that -- especially if they can develop RPs and back end starters as well.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Think about it. We knew what we may be getting in Bryant, Schwarber, Soler, etc. Those were top-end draft picks/signings. Who would have guessed the found diamonds of Arietta, Strop, or Rondon? Pitching breaks, and can be found. Did I mention a guy named Bosio?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Regardless of all of these, it is clear that the FO must sign a TOR arm this winter. It will be expensive, but it ain't my bread.

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    I really like the potential of Dylan Cease. I know he pitched only 24 innings this year, is it possible he could pitch a whole season next year or is it too soon? Also, I like the way you describe the movement of the ball and the other pitches other than the FB. We've seen many 98 MPH fast balls hit very hard this year, so it's not just velocity but movement and change of speeds that we look for.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Cease is really interesting and I've seen him throw some FBs with some run on them. I think they'll add to his load and he'll add to his repertoire, but they also don't want to have to big an innings jump. He probably goes to Eugene so they can control that.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    My guess is they send him to Eugene next year to limit his innings. And then in 2017 you could see him skip the MWL and head to the CL to begin.

  • Great stuff John and glad you are back and healthy. Looking forward to seeing some of these guys at Clark & Addison in a few years.

    And FYI the Trevor Clifton link points to De La Cruz's page. I only point it out b/c I was clicking on all the links to read up more on everyone...

  • In reply to North Side Pat:


    And whoops abut the link..I will fix that.

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    btw, Pirates lost tonight and Cincy beat the Cards 11-0. Cubs gain w/o playing.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:


  • In reply to John Arguello:

    With a sweep of the double header tomorrow, the Cubs will ensure their first winning season since they finished 83-78 in 2009.

  • Two excellent articles in a row John! I love the group of pitching prospects we have assembled, even if they are a couple of years from contributing.

    My question is regarding David Price. I think in a vacuum he is the best fit for our team this off-season, but his potential contract could reach scary levels. With him, Lester, and Arrieta (who I hope we can extend in the near future), we could have a big three to go up against any other teams.

    Would the front office consider making a run at Price knowing with that big three, we could fill the bottom two spots in the rotation with cheap guys from this article. It seems like the wave of pitching lines up pretty well with Hammel coming of the book, and they would know that cheap options are coming in the system to kind of offset the big three. Also, with all the big arms we should always have cheap flame throwers to use in the pen.

    I'm still not sure I would be comfortable giving Price a 200 million dollar contract, but I wonder if the depth in the minors would play a role in the decision. (Of couse they could decide to go with a shorter term guy to bridge the gap.)

  • Thanks.

    I am going to be honest and a bit more direct than I was in the last article and say that I do not believe the Cubs will sign David Price. I think they'd prefer a younger pitcher who fits in after Arrieta and Lester rather than investing so much money on something as volatile as pitching -- especially because Arrieta is due for a raise and it becomes an even bigger problem 4 years down the road.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    A man can dream. But I agree, it is just too much money. I agree with the strategy you said, and I also wouldn't mind signing someone like Kazmir to a reasonable contract (if that even exists in FA). I do hope they make a push at extending Arrieta this off-season.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, since you're being direct I will as well. Honestly don't you think they need two pitchers this offseason? I do think they'll pursue Price but I'm almost certain they won't land him. My money is on Boston if for no other reason than Dombrowski spent 9 months negotiating with his people already in Detroit. That's an advantage. I digress though. I think they need a guy who's at least a MOR guy now with potential to be better than that and another solid pitcher. If he's a TOR and you like the money equation then so be it. A RHP and a LHP. Also, and here is the elephant in the room, does anyone really think Arrieta re-signs with the Cubs? Knowing he's a Boras guy I can't think of a single reason. Next year is not a particularly great year for pitching which means the following year Arrieta could get the kind of money Price is this year. I'm not hopeful.

    What I am hopeful about though is what you mention here about the pitching pipeline. While there is no TOR lock in the bunch there might be enough depth to intrigue other clubs especially in a package with position players for that young TOR guy. Once again the flexibility the Cubs have going forward looks to be a serious strength.

  • In reply to TC154:

    They don't need two starters. Hendricks as the 5th man in the rotation is perfectly adequate. I do think they will look around, but it isn't a priority. They will either sign a MOR guy on a reasonable deal or trade for a young MLB starter with TOR potential. It is possible they do both though, in which case Hendricks is either included in the trade or goes back to Iowa to serve as depth.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I'd rather see Hammel in the 5th spot. If the Mets can replenish their rentals with solid players they're immediately the favorite for the NL pennant next year. The Dodgers in Friedman's 2nd year should be better. The Cardinals will be better than they are now which is scary. I would feel a lot more comfortable with a deeper staff than Hammel and Hendricks at 4 & 5. I am a worry wart thought so there is that.

  • In reply to TC154:

    The Mets don't have the money to restock their lineup. They do have a couple of hitting prospects on the horizon, but it will take a couple of years. They are going to be completely pitching dependent for the near future. And pitchers get hurt. I don't think the Mets will ever be the favorite for the NL pennant.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I think you're right. Those long contracts for 30+ pitchers are risky. I think they might target Mike Leake, because he's only 27. Probably a #3, but could develop into more, and should be cheaper.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Completely agree John. Much as I'd love to see Price, no way it happens, and it's largely because of the ascent of Arrieta. Price will be a $150M+ guy, as will Arrieta, and of course Lester already is a $150M+ guy.

    To sign all three would mean the Cubs would have somewhere around $500M (likely more) invested in three starting pitchers who are 30+. That would make zero sense. Hell, Ricketts bought the Cubs AND Wrigley Field for $845M just a few years ago! Now they're going to invest 60% of that amount in three aging pitchers?

    No way. It'd be nice, but it just ain't happening.

  • In reply to YouCannotBeSerious:

    Right, but now the club is worth $2 billion and the economics are not the same. I do agree they won't sign Price but not because he's a $150 million plus pitcher but because I think he'll sign for $230 million. If they thought they could get him at $190 million I think they'd do that in a heartbeat. I don't know how they could be confident in re-signing or extending Arrieta in 2 years knowing that he'll be in that $200 plus million group as well. I think the Cubs are in a tough situation here but I'm really not worried about money. The revenues are way up, the club is worth more than double than they paid for it and every time Ricketts' is asked he says that Theo will get anything he asks for. It's just how do you balance that with the competitive window they're entering? That's the (multi) miillion dollar question.

  • In reply to TC154:

    They'll balance it by not spending $500M+ on three pitchers over 30, especially with a new TV deal still four full seasons away.

  • In reply to YouCannotBeSerious:

    The rights are four years away but the deal is likely to be signed in two to give the new network time to set up shop, hire personnel etc. St. Louis is already counting their money. I'm not worried about this team spending money and they are going have to sign pitchers in order to compete. Of course they are also in a position to trade for arms. That's the balance I'm talking about. The best pitching staff in the league guarantees you nothing (just ask Washington) but it sure helps when you reach the playoffs.

  • Would it be from your pocket?

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    John, What are your thoughts on Jacob Turner? I think when healthy he has the stuff to be a #2 or 3

  • In reply to Randy Rhomberg:

    Turner has great stuff but it will depend on command. To me he's more of a 4/5 until he can be more efficient and go deeper into games.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    With Turner's recent injury history, he seems destined for the pen this coming season. Just not enough innings of late to handle the load of innings needed from a starter.

    Do you see him being given a shot at earning a spot in the rotation next spring? I can't imagine that Cubs would do that but I'm interested in your take.

    The Cubs will likely be saying good-bye to Motte, Rodney and Hunter. Maybe they re-sign Hunter. I can see Edwards and Turner filling their roles nicely with a healthy Ramirez as well. The Cubs FO keeps pumping out the in-house options.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    I don't see why they wouldn't let Turner compete for a rotation spot. They certainly won't count on him to win it, but he needs to come in and get stretched out in ST and be ready if needed for the rotation. But he will not be given or counted on for a spot in the rotation or pen, he will have to earn it.

    It is possible the Cubs do not bring back any FA on the roster. The two with the best chance in my mind are Austin Jackson and Fernando Rodney.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    But is it even a physical possibility for Turner to be a starter in 2016 given that he threw 113 innings in 2014 and 9 this year? Would there be a concern to limit his innings? How does that work?

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Are we really concerned if Turner breaks down? We aren't trying to protect Matt Harvey here. Most 5th starters don't make 30+ starts anyway, they get skipped, they bounce back and forth from the pen, sometimes they get demoted. The Cubs would probably only ask him to throw five innings anyway. 25 starts, averaging 5 innings per start is a reasonable workload for a guy in his situation.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    seems to me Joe will run out his top 5 in the rotation consistently . I don't believe he's skipped anyone in the rotation this yr except to rearrange the sequence. 30 starts would seem to be what's expected if Turner was determined to be one of the top 5 and I doubt he could do that next yr with a "year off "

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    And yes, I also see that they could let all their free agents go. Such are the benefits of having such a deep and talented 40-man roster and organization.

    Possibly Fowler if he accepts a QO, but that seems unlikely now.

    Austin Jackson is intriguing. With Turner out of options, if he sticks there won't be room for Rodney.

    If they Cubs are able to acquire a top shelf closer like Kimbrel or the Cincinnati lefty who shall not be named, the rest of the pen could be in-house.

    Top Shelf, Truly Dominant Free Agent Reliever

    Would need a lefty or two, though... :-)


    In-house lefties are a bit more scarce...

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Wood should not return. My guess is the pen looks something like:

    LI Lefty (FA or Trade, McGee from TB seems a good target)
    Veteran righty in the Rodney/Motte/Hunter mold
    Edwards Jr.

    Ramirez, Turner, maybe Cahill and any guys competing for a rotation spot would be battling for the 8th spot (Yes, I expect the Cubs to use an 8 man bullpen again). I could see a scenario where a guy like Strop or Grimm is included in a trade though too.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    If they can get a Kimbrel or other dominant closer type and move everyone down a peg, that would be great and I would be all for it, but I don't think it is necessary. Getting a high leverage lefthander and working Edwards Jr. into the mix should significantly extend the pen and resolve most of the issues seen this year.

  • Thanks for the prospect write up John. These are my personal favorite! De la Cruz at 6-4 200 with good velocity movement and control and really young sounds very interesting. Do you see any chance for him to be more than a mid rotation guy?

  • In reply to youngcub91:

    Depends on if he is still growing. He is already bigger than 6-4 200. I would guess he is more like 6-5 220 at this point, maybe even pushing 6-6. If he continues to grow he could build up even more arm strength and if he can start hitting the mid 90s consistently instead of topping out there then he could become more as he shows good command with it and in the limited action of his that I have seen can both cut and sink it. He had trouble getting on top of his curve, but when he did it flashed as average or maybe even a little better. His changegup was pretty rough, but that is to be expected.

    He falls off to the 1st base side more than I like to see with a guy his size. I think it takes away some of the advantage provided by his height. I would like to see him finish out in front more and drive towards the hitter, making it seem like he is releasing the ball right on top of him.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Finishing out front also has a secondary advantage when it comes to pitch framing. Trout used to tell me that umpires can get distracted by pitchers with more wild motions. He was of the opinion that pitchers that have as simple a motion as possible got more calls.

  • In reply to Gator:

    His motion isn't wild, he just doesn't have a real long leg drive and he falls off to the 1st base side. His motion is perfectly reasonable and it won't prevent him from succeeding, I just think he could maximize his potential by tweaking it.

  • Great article, John. Thank you.

    The Cubs have been doing a good job of bringing in the talent, but you've been doing an even better job of covering them.

  • Slightly off topic as these guys aren't in the same tier as the prospects John mentioned in the article, but I find them worth following nonetheless.

    Adbert Alzolay doesn't have the size of De La Cruz, but he does have similar stuff and results. He's close in stature to Cease (an inch shorter but 4 pounds heavier according to BR), so he may get pegged more as a reliever. He can hit mid-90s and held NWL hitters to a .159 average as a 20 year old.

    John chronicled the development of 6'5" righty Luis Hernandez well this summer. Thanks to his move to Mesa (and his watchful eye) we learned he sits mid-90s on his FB. I would be remiss if I didn't also mentioned the good, natural downward plane he has on his pitches (as John is apt to point out). He's still a project who didn't pitch a lot of innings this season (17 between Mesa and Eugene). He may have been dealing with health issues as he didn't log any innings in extended spring training.

    Speaking of health issues and limited innings, I'm also intrigued by the top IFA pitcher of the vaunted 2013 class, Erling Moreno. Like Cease, he is coming back from TJS. Unlike Cease, he doesn't throw nearly as hard and didn't log nearly as many innings (just 3.2 in ExST and 4.2 in Mesa). He's got ideal size at 6'3", 200 lbs. and the Cubs thought highly enough of him to give him an $800,000 signing bonus. He'll turn 19 in January.

    20-year-old LHP Jose Paulino was up and down this season with Eugene, but he has a good fastball for a lefty. As an unheralded IFA, like De La Cruz and Alzolay, he's less polished, but he seems to have stuff to work with.

    As John mentioned, the Cubs saw a 10th rounder and a 19th rounder emerge onto the prospect landscape this season. There's a bevy of 2015 mid round picks worthy of a follow. This trio of 21-year-olds each had good statistical seasons in the Northwest League where they were a year older than average.

    - Casey Bloomquist (17th round) 6'3", 24 Ks, 2 walks in 20.2 IP.
    - Preston Morrison (8th round) 6'2", 30 Ks, 3 walks in 22.1 IP
    - Kyle Twomey (13th round) 6'3", 2.35 ERA, .210 OppBA

    It will be fun to see which of these guys will take a step forward next season.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Preston Morrison might not ever get due from the national press due to being a submarine pitcher. It will be interesting to see how quickly he could move up the system. This year after a long college season, patience prevailed but after a good offseason it will be interesting to see if he goes all the way to Myrtle Beach or go up only one spot to South Bend.

    I like South Bend as a training ground for getting pitchers not used to the early spring and late fall weather, to get used to gripping the ball and staying loose.

  • How much better would it be for the Cubs to develop the NEXT "David Price" than to overspend on the current one? Jake Arrieta isn't a fluke - he's the result of careful scouting, great coaching and a little luck. That's a recipe that can produce again, either through prospects currently in the Cubs system or through the right acquisitions. It's possible we could see a great home-grown starting rotation in the next few years.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    It's the little luck part that is the hardest to quantify.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    With the first $40 million/year starter probably on the horizon in the next 8-10 years that would be a beautiful thing. I would think that there are pitchers right now, in other systems that the Cubs would have liked to draft and believe have TOR potential that they might ask about all the time. One of those clubs might bite eventually, especially considering the kind of hitting the Cubs have to offer in trade.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    I'm mildly attuned too fiscal concerns, but I'm not bank rolling this franchise. I want to see Price on this roster and have all season. I think he wants to be a Cub, and might be willing to shave a zero or so from his asking price to get back with Maddon.

  • In reply to BLOOMIE1937:

    Sure, if money is no object, then let's sign Price, Cueto and Kimbrel, too. Since this isn't the Yankees or Dodgers, however, there will be a limit to the amount spent. I don't think the Cubs FO is adverse to spending, but I think spending is Plan "B. Epstoyer's " Plan "A," I believe, is to develop cost-controlled talent in-house, keeping payroll dollars free to use for something else.

  • Due to all the cost controlled fielders, it seems to me the Cubs have a 3 year window where they can spend an almost "unlimited' amount on pitching. That window is followed by a 2 year window where the fielders are controlled but likely expensive due to arbitration. After the second window, the TV rights are renegotiated, so who know what the $$ situation will be.

    In this first window, I think the Cubs will need to a) sign Arrieta past his two arbitration years, by at least 1, perhaps 2 years and b) find another TOR arm -- to give them 3 TOR guys. In this first window, salary per year doesn't really matter -- but length of term does because if the term runs into that second window, we'll probably start jettisoning some core fielders as they hit arbitration eligibility. So the question is -- how do the cubs find a TOR guy for a three year stint? Seems the best answer is a Cole Hamels type situation -- i.e. under contract, expensive and a team looking to rebuild. Does Madison Bumgarner fit this defn? Gio Gonzalez? etc.

    In the second window, we probably need to balance the expense of the fielders with some low-cost TOR pitching. It's here where either we'll need to see the farm system produce 2 TOR guys (assuming Arieta is unaffordable/insufficiently valuable at that point), or provide the resources to trade for low cost TOR

  • In reply to Gunga:

    Arrieta is going to want to get paid and he won't want a couple of extra years. That would make him 33 years old when he does hit FA and the $250 million type contract will then be going to younger guys. I see very little way to sign him to an extension unless they offer him silly numbers right now, say $200 million/7 years bringing him up to 36 at that point. I still think that's probably a bargain compared to what he'll make in two years if he keeps pitching like this but, with that kind of money he's got the security to not worry as much about injuries.

  • In reply to Gunga:

    I've never thought Hamels was a fit for us I say shoot the moon for the next five years and win a couple championships.

  • John on Price i respectfully disagree and here is why. Next years payroll Will be around 85mil and the FO is planning on winning the world series next year and you will need Someone like Price to do it, payroll issues wont start for 4 or 5 years. Revenues will have substantially increased by then as well.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    Having two starting pitchers in their thirties with 150M+ contracts is a huge risk. It may not blow up in their face next year, and yeah it would certainly improve their chances to win next year, but having two potential anvils around their feet five years down the road when Bryant, Russell, Soler, Baez, etc are going to getting huge raises in arbitration and could be looking for extensions is very concerning. The FO has to really weigh that risk.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    No team in baseball, not the Yankees, not the Dodgers have invested in two starting pitchers of that age with that type of contract. That should tell you something. It is possible the Dodgers will do it eventually but they are at a different level financially.

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    In reply to bleachercreature:

    As an FYI, our guaranteed payroll next year is already $82 mil. It's $85 mil only if we non-tender all of our arb eligible players, including Arrieta, Strop, Grimm, Rondon, and Coglan.

    The actual baseline is about $120 mil, once you make the obvious arb and option decisions. The only wildcard is whether they make an arb offer to Travis Wood; not doing so would save around $6 mil.

  • I'm not the biggest fan of Pierce Johnson, who I think ends up in the pen eventually, but he does have an outside chance to become a MOR guy if he can get his command sorted out and stay healthy. He will be 25 next season so you would like to see him make some strides in Iowa. His fastball is still in the low 90s with good movement and he can also cut it in on lefties. His curveball still has a good hard break, and his changeup is decent.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    He'll be added to the 40-man this offseason (he's Rule 5 eligible); anyone on the 40-man has a good chance to see Wrigley at some point, so we'll be following his progress next year for sure.

  • great info John. Some of the pitchers not mentioned in this article are still better than any pitching that we have had in the minors in quite some time. Jen-Ho Tseng was the Cubs pitcher of the year last year. He may have started slowly in MB, but he finished the season strong, and is still only 20. Carlos Pimental was outstanding in Iowa but always seems to be overlooked. We also have relief pitchers a-plenty. David Berg, Armando Rivero, Ryan Buchter, P.J. Franceson, and yes...even Dillon Maples (who may become a starter again) to name a few. The future looks very bright for our pitching..but we still need more TOR prospects.

  • Not using your high, first round draft pick on a pitcher is a genius strategy. I think time will eventually show what a genius tactic it was by Theo and Jed. Seeing what is going on with Matt Harvey now, what went on with Strasburg a few years ago...I'll take the best hitter in the draft any day as the first pick.

  • on Price, in 5 years a good payroll will be in the 200mil range. Our 140mil payroll Will work
    just fine,

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    a couple things - I agree this team has a window - and we are there
    so lets not mess around with having tryouts for the 5th spot - with a guy like Turner next year - and go through the same issue as wada /wood this year.

    Can you imagine where this team would be if we had Leake or Harren for the whole year - in the 5 spot. Im sure someone could pull that data.

    theres a lot of pitching out there this winter - they can see what the market is - then make a decision on bringing in 2 guys that fit the budget - that will take the ball every turn.

    Also agree - Arrieta is not going to sign a 3-4 year deal
    It will be either 2 to avoid Arb or 6-7 with funny money.

  • In reply to deport soriano com:

    I don't think there is any doubt the team is going to add a proven guy that is an upgrade over Haren, which bumps Hendricks down to the 5 spot. Turner would be competing with Hendricks. Having Turner compete in that scenario is perfectly reasonable. If he looks healthy and outpitches a decent young 5th starter in Hendricks I don't see a problem with that.

    It is not about tryouts. You have to have more than 5 starters heading into ST. Guys get hurt. Turner, at best, would be the 6th starter entering ST and would only make the team if he shows he is better than another guy, or another guy gets hurt.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    yeah - I agree
    Turner for $2mil is worth a look in spring training but hes out of options.
    So that means - hed be taking a spot on the 25. Or you cut him - which they did with Doubront.
    Hendricks prob still has some options.
    P. Johnson is there as well.

    Well see how it shakes out.

  • In reply to deport soriano com:

    IF Turner can get healthy over the Winter, and stay healthy through ST - I think you have to give him a legit shot at being the #5 rotation guy - or one of the mid/late inning BP arms. But yes - since the man is out of options, he's on the chopping/trading block if he doesn't come out of AZ in April. That $2 MM isn't too terrible even if he is only a dependable RP.

    Hendricks still having an option year for next year - at least gives the Cubs some flexibility of shuttling him up & down IF he doesn't just grab that #5 SP spot and hold onto it like a bulldog.

    P. Johnson is sort of a wildcard there - as (as CubsFaninNC states) if he does well in ST, and does well the first month or two in Iowa - he could be a factor in the rotation by mid-2016.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I agree. Every team needs to continue to develop from within even when they are winning. The fifth starter and a few lower leverage relief pitcher roles are the logical roster spots to do that at as far as pitchers are concerned. That doesn't mean the Cubs will settle for less the whole season. It just means they always need a way to develop guys that last step to the majors. That is the only way to afford multiple TOR type pitchers on the same roster.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Turner doesn't have to beat out Hendricks.

    He should be moved to the pen for a couple of years. The Cardinals have had great success having their future starters pitch in the bullpen for the first year or two. First of all, it is easier to hide an inconsistent reliever than an inconsistent starter. Second, especially in Turner's case, it allows the Cubs to limit his innings while he heals and builds strength.

  • I also think you will see Pierce Johnson sometime next season. If he dominates in ST and the first month of AAA, he may become your fifth starter.

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    I have always liked Leake, and though his numbers aren't that good I think Bosio can help him like Arrieta and others. If Ramirez returns to his 2014 form it's like signing a FA, and although I like Price a lot I just can't seeing spending $200M plus for him. This FO came in saying they wanted to avoid signing FA with their best years behind them. Signing Price might be good for a few years and then we have an Alfonso Soriano contract to weight down for the rest of how many years?

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    Yeah -

    Leake is 28 - so even if he gets a 4 yr deal
    your comfortable with that.

  • I struggle to get the Cubs to $120 MLN, so I need some help with how people are getting to that number.

    Some of my assumptions:
    Wood is gone, I actually think there is a better chance we pay Price $30 mil per than a long relieve for low leverage $6+ mil. This brass doesn't like paying a lot for high leverage reliever, they will not pay that much for a mop up guy.

    Lester's salary next year is not $25 mil, the Cubs paid his bonus out of last season's budget since they had a lot of payroll room. Don't remember the exact break down but his actual salary is millions less.

    I have Arrietta at $14 mil, doe that sound close? His is a tough case but he is getting a big raise.

    Rondon will get a big bump with all the saves. $2-3 Mil

    Coghlan probably gets +$2 Mil.

    Other than that the raises should be small. Relievers without saves don't get big bumps, very small usually.

    I think the Cubs are Sub $110 depending on how much of Lester's comes of. Maybe around $105 mil.

    Now, remember back in 08 the Cubs had $140 MLN + payroll and were profitable. Ticket prices have only gone up, so 3 MLN attendance brings in more money. The show stopper is MLB properties. It is well known that this revenue stream has exploded. MLB paying the NHL $100 MLN a year to run their internet and other media shows the value here, MLB will turn a profit on that deal.

    My point is $140 MLN payroll is actually modest. Not suggesting they should blow it out, but I have them at sub $110 with $140 very comfortable. Needs are SP, CF, high leverage reliever. Thoughts?

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    In reply to bleedblue:

    Look on the Payroll and Salaries tab on Baseball Reference, it does a pretty good job laying it out:

    1. They are counting Lester for $25 mil, so that's just an accounting choice; probably only Cubs brass knows how he "counts" or not
    2. We have $15 mil in Dead Money, for E-Jax, Sweeney, Concepcion; that unfortunately counts
    3. Don't forget you have to add $510K for every other player to get up to 25-man roster; that's a few million
    4. The $120 mil includes Travis Wood; take him out, we save $6 mil. He's the only on-the-fence tender. Medina and Herrera are probable non-tender candidates.
    5. The only option is for Trevor Cahill, zero chance that get's excercised

  • Leake is still a work in progress. I'm not sure he is that close to having consistent command. I hope the Cubs do better or more than Leake.

  • I'm not sure very many teams out there are interested in signing any over 30 pitcher for 200 million, though LA seems to be made of money at times. Last year I thought Lester was going to get much more, but I think the cost is bumping up against the upper limit of what nearly all teams are willing to spend. Do't be surprised if the market stays below that. With so many coming on the market next year there will be downward pressure on these contracts overall.

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    Thanks John,

    Reading this article just goes hand in hand with my thoughts about why I really don't think the Cubs will want to spend $180M-$210M for David Price. The addition of Price would just be so exciting for the Cubs in 2016! No doubt about that. But it would seem to handcuff them a bit financially speaking in just a few years.

    Would both Lester and Price give us the same production as they age? In 3 to 4 years the both might be solid #3 types but getting paid as #1 types. We have to admit that this scenario is more likely as they age. If the Cubs could land a young stud in a trade it just keeps that financial flexibility that would be crucial in a few years from now.

    Stuff happens. Guys get hurt and we may still need money and prospects in a few years. And personally, I don't want to see the Cubs use the Jim Hendry mode to improve this team. He went on a wild spending spree and we still end up with a championship. It could be argued that he did it because ownership was really just looking to improve the price of the team. But that's a whole other topic.

    History just shows us over and over that buying free agents is one of the worst ways to improve. Did Jon Lester give us the on the field performances we expected after signing his big deal? He's had a solid year but was it $155M solid?

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    In reply to bocabobby:

    *And personally, I don't want to see the Cubs use the Jim Hendry mode to improve this team. He went on a wild spending spree and we still DIDN'T end up with a championship.*

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    No, his 1 million + per win is not worth it. Should not do this again

  • Jake's 29 and yet to get paid. 4 more years is a long time.
    I still think he's a candidate to take Money Sooner despite Boras.

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    In reply to hoffpauir6:

    And look at those innings pitched between Arrieta and Price. Jake is 29 and Price is 30. Price has almost twice as many innings!

  • In reply to hoffpauir6:

    I don't think (the Boras factor at play here) that Arrieta is going to sign an extension that buys out a couple years of FA,.... but I think that the Cubs are dumb (and I don't think they are dumb) if they don't at least make a very enticing offer to Jake.

    He's making ~$3.63 MM this season,... chances are he doubles that (or more) via his Arbitration years even assuming he doesn't want to sign a lucrative extension. You know that after making a run at a Cy Young, and probably topping out the season at 20+ wins the man is deserving of a big raise for 2016 & unless he just collapses next season into 2017.

    How about something like this: 3 years guaranteed, 4 year with mutual options. 2016 - $8 MM + some incentives, 2017 - $12 MM + incentives, 2018 - $16 MM + incentives and 2019 (option year) either a reasonable buyout figure (several $ MM?), or $20 MM.

    That'll still get Jake some decent money the next couple of seasons - give the Cubs some stability through 2019, and gives Jake the opportunity to go FA elsewhere after 2018 at age 32, or 33 if they use the option.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    my thought is offerJake about a 4/60 contract, structure it either backloaded or frontloaded.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    If he would take it,.... that would be a fine deal as well. He's likely worth $15 MM/year average..... a lot more barring injury or some unanticipated regression.

    Frontloaded would probably make more sense as in a few years they are going to have to think about extending and arbitrating with guys like Bryant, Schwarber, Russell and Soler (if he's still around), and whether or not to link additional extensions with Rizzo or Castro (in the unlikely event he's still around and productive).

  • I know price is a long shot but there's a legit chance.I also believe with so many tor starters available in free agency this winter the market won't be crazy compared to last winter when it was just lester and scherzer.

  • In reply to bolla:

    every pitcher will wait for Price to sign to set the market for them

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    I agree with this. The other thing to remember is that Bo McKinnis is a very different kind of agent than Scott Boras who had the top money winner last year. He's much more client specific as about to dollar specific. I still think Price could get north of the $210 mil that Scherzer got but it won't be because McKinnis bypasses all the GM's an President of Baseball Ops and browbeats the owners. He selects a strategy and is very successful. I have no idea if what Price says about wanting a good fit is true or if he thinks he just has to say to say it to be looked at as a good guy. If it's the former he may be OK with a team he wants to play for offering $185-$190 mil. If it's the latter someone's going to come up with the scratch. I guarantee you that the MLBPA, Johnny Cueto, Zach Greinke and hope it's the latter. If the Cubs really want this guy they hope it's the former.

  • In reply to bolla:

    If im a top FA pitcher this offseason, first ? Id ask myself, who gives me the best chance for one or more rings? The Cubs have to figure to be a top5 team in terms of offensive talent next year.

  • Anyone know the status of Beeler? He finished very strong at Iowa but it looks like he is back on the 7 day DL?

  • In reply to Letsplay2:

    I haven't heard anything. That's too bad I was thinking he would be a useful piece down the stretch considering his recent rebound.

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    In reply to Letsplay2:

    I was wondering why they wouldn't have him start on Sunday instead of a bullpen day. Maybe that's the reason.

  • Somehow, I still see Stinnett having the most long term upside next to Underwood. Just something about his stuff says "Jake Arrieta" to me. Cease has great stuff, his lack of a pitchers body makes me a little less inclined to see him as a TOR type. Cease reminds me a bit of a slightly larger Carl Edwards Jr.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    I don't under estimate pitchers just because of their bodies. A lot of good pitchers w/smaller stature come to mind when I read some of these posts. If they have good stuff, they have good stuff no matter their size. I've seen some pitchers w/a "pitcher's body" pitch awful. Sure, Jake n Jon have "pitcher's bodies", but there's some hall of famers that don't.

    I'm still one that would like the Cubs have Carl be considered/compete for the rotation in 2016. Along w/Johnson & Turner. Unless they upgrade over winter w/more of a "sure thing" if there is one.

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    Really nice job on the podcast John!


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