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Top Cubs offseason questions: What is the team’s No. 1 need this winter?

2 years agoStaff Report

With the Cubs facing a pivotal winter, we’re tackling the biggest questions facing Jed Hoyer’s front office. Reporters Bruce Levine and Tony Andracki provide their perspective.

Next up:

What is the Cubs’ biggest need this winter and how will they address it?

BRUCE

Like every team — if you’re going to be competitive now and in the future, it’s about starting pitching. The Cubs have two of the best stating pitchers in the league in Kyle Hendricks and Yu Darvish. After that, you’re starting to talk about Alec Mills and Adbert Alzolay — pretty much unproven guys.

Mills took a step up last year and showed that he could be consistent, but it was only over 11 starts. We’re talking about a third of a season. With all due respect to Mills, that’s not an indication that he can be competitive and have a winning record over a whole year.

Alzolay has certainly shown stuff and the ability to get guys out, but has never built up the innings to show he can handle a full season workload. They need starting depth for now and in the future. and that has to come in the way of controllable pitchers — not just guys to get them through the 2021 season.

Jed Hoyer talked about the fact that they’re not counting on their starting pitchers from last year being able to pitch 30-32 starts because they only made 12 starts last year. They’re not sure about where the length is going to come from.

One way to add depth is to trade a guy like Darvish coming off his best year with the Cubs and has three years left on his contract. He would be ideal for a team that thinks they can win next year. The Cubs feel they can be competitive in 2021, but if you can get three quality players back for Darvish, do you start the clock on 2022 and start moving in that direction, building your pitching staff and the rest of your team with high quality younger players from another club?

That’s something else that probably weighs heavily on Hoyer on a daily basis as to how this offseason will shape out.

TONY

Yeah, I thought that was a good point from Hoyer about next year’s innings. Even guys like Hendricks and Darvish — who have proven they’re able to handle 200-inning workloads — are not necessarily going be able to do that next season after a wacky 2020. Mills and Alzolay have earned the opportunity to claim a spot in the Cubs rotation, but they don’t have a long track record.

In terms of the top priorities for this winter, I think it’s all about pitching depth — whether in the starting rotation or bullpen. The bullpen will have to eat up a lot of the innings just from the fact that even the top rotation arms might not be able to go much more than 150 innings next year.

With Jon Lester, José Quintana, Tyler Chatwood and relievers like Jeremy Jeffress and Ryan Tepera coming off the board for this pitching staff, the Cubs have a lot of holes to fill. That’s priority No. 1 for Hoyer’s front office. They need more arms, more guys that can provide rotation depth or pitch some of the middle innings or pitch in high-leverage late innings.

And that’s just for 2021. Like Bruce said, the Cubs have a major long-term need for controllable pitching assets.

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