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‘No. 1 priority’: Cubs targeting power arms for rotation this offseason

3 years agoAndy Martinez

Jed Hoyer knows what’s at the top of the Cubs’ needs this offseason.

“If you sort of look at the whole season, there’s no question that we have to acquire more pitching, better pitching this year,” Hoyer said during his end-of-season press conference on Wednesday. “I think that’ll be the No. 1 priority because that, said simply, was the downfall of this season was that our rotation was short, and we weren’t effective enough in terms of run prevention.”

The Cubs’ struggled with their starters, posting a 5.27 ERA from their rotation, ranking 27th in baseball ahead of only the Rangers, Pirates and Orioles. They finished 28th in WHIP at 1.46 and 29th in opponent’s OPS — .829. 

Hoyer and the Cubs are going to be active this winter in filling out a rotation that can give them not only length — the Cubs receive the 8th fewest innings from starters this season — but quality, too. The Cubs’ offense showed a resurgence in the final month of the season, posting a team OPS of .789 (6th-best in baseball) and scored 4.93 runs per game (the 9th-most in MLB). Cubs starters had a 6.42 ERA in that time, the third worst in baseball.

“We really need to dramatically improve our pitching,” Hoyer said. “Our starting rotation simply wasn’t good enough this year to compete.”

Hoyer reiterated on Wednesday that the Cubs “have money to spend this winter”. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to throw cash at the biggest names in the market, though.

“I think it’s really important that we do that in an intelligent way,” Hoyer said.

The biggest names or acquisitions don’t always lead to the best results. The Padres, for example, were the darlings last winter, when they acquired Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove and Blake Snell.

They’re spending their October sitting at home like the Cubs.

Meanwhile, the Padres’ division rivals up the Pacific Coast Highway, the Giants, went under the radar, offering a qualifying offer to Kevin Gausman and signing free agents Anthony Desclafani and Alex Wood. 106 wins and an NL West division later, and they’re looking to win their 4th World Series since 2010.

“As we build this, I think it’s really important to make one good decision after another and I do think that’s how I think about the offseason,” Hoyer said.

That starts with finding starters who have velocity and swing-and-miss ability. Cubs starters threw the third-fewest strikeouts this season. Sure, that’s not a be-all, end-all — the Cardinals had the fifth-fewest strikeouts, but they had an elite defense, ranking 1st in MLB in team Outs Above Average. The Cubs had four pitchers in their rotation at the end of the year who relied heavily on their defense — Kyle Hendricks, Adrian Sampson, Zach Davies and Alec Mills.

Diversifying their rotation with power arms can help the Cubs’ pitching staff.

“You need power pitching. You need power arms to win in today’s game. You need to be able to miss bats,” Hoyer said. “The makeup of our staff this year was too contact-oriented, so to speak, and that’s something that needs to change.”

That’s where the Cubs are focused on in the offseason. They’ll look for starters who can give them length and look to spend money wisely. They’re not out to “win” the offseason.

“I think it’s just being opportunistic and sort of striking when you feel like when you feel like the market is right,” Hoyer said. “We’re certainly gonna be active, but I think we need to be active in a way that we feel like we’re getting the right value for the dollars we’re spending and we’re also making sure we’re not hindering ourselves going forward with expenditures for right now.”

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