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The Cubs’ plan to fill starting rotation after Marcus Stroman’s departure

7 months agoAndy Martinez

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For much of last week, Jed Hoyer was in the dark as to whether or not Marcus Stroman would opt in and return to the Cubs in 2024.

“I had a bunch of long conversations with [agent] Brody [Van Wagenen],” Hoyer said at the GM Meetings at the Omni resort. The meetings, scheduled to run through Thursday, were cut short on Wednesday night due to a stomach virus that hit many of the front offices in town for the yearly meeting. “I think I talked to him Friday, I think I talked to him Saturday. Just a bunch of conversations about what he was gonna decide and I really didn’t know.”

Hoyer and the Cubs enjoyed their partnership with Stroman, who was one of the game’s best pitchers through the first few months of the season, before injuries derailed his season.

“I enjoyed him. He’s a very hard worker. He’s really diligent with his preparation. Really cares about winning,” Hoyer said. “He never disappointed us. I really like him and I thought it was a good match for us.”

Stroman’s decision to opt out and hit the open market left the Cubs with an opening in their rotation — and some question marks.

“With Stroman it probably felt like we had the depth we needed and I think having left, we’ll definitely revisit that, I guess I would say,” Hoyer said.

The Cubs have plenty of in-house options to support their three-man rotation base of Justin Steele, Kyle Hendricks and Jameson Taillon. Drew Smyly, Javier Assad, Jordan Wicks, Hayden Wesneski and Caleb Kilian all made at least one start for the Cubs in 2023 and are on the 40-man roster. Ben Brown (also on the 40-man) and Cade Horton are a pair of prospects near the major leagues, too.

The free agent market is flooded with intriguing options. In addition to Stroman, National League Cy Young finalist Blake Snell is on the board, as is Aaron Nola, Japanese star Yoshinobu Yamamoto and World Series champion Jordan Montgomery. Behind those big names lie some intriguing options like Lucas Giolito, Jack Flaherty and Kyle Gibson.

There could be pitchers available via trade, too. It’s possible that the trade market could be a more robust option for the Cubs this offseason than free agency and plenty of interesting names – like Tampa Bay’s Tyler Glasnow, Cleveland’s Shane Bieber and Seattle’s Logan Gilbert — could be on the move.

If the Cubs look for outside help, they’ll have a certain type of pitcher in mind.

“I think as a team, I feel like our defense is really good and that helps us, but yeah I would like to add more swing and miss,” Hoyer said. “The stuff in the big leagues isn’t sort of where our minor league system is and we gotta continue to migrate that up and have more swing and miss.”

It’s incredibly likely the Cubs will look at either market to best supplement the rotation. If the team hopes to contend in 2024, relying on 2 or more young, unproven arms in the rotation could be taxing on the team.

Hoyer constantly preaches that a team can never have enough pitching. So, except the Cubs to bolster their rotation, then incorporate young arms as they deem appropriate. Having veterans who can cover innings and give their young arms more of a runway to develop will be beneficial.

“We wanna give some guys opportunity, but we always talk about you can’t have enough pitching,” Hoyer said. “I certainly think that’s something that we’ll explore. I do like the fact that we can give some young guys some opportunities.”

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