Over the course of the last two seasons, the rotation of the Chicago Cubs has been one of the few bright spots. Actually serving as a strength for the club, they spent the bulk of each of the last two winters prior to this one building up their rotational depth and it showed. They were able to stock up young players in the farm system by adding several quality arms that they, in turn, flipped.
Names that the Cubs have shipped out of town in recent years feature guys like Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Scott Feldman, and Paul Maholm, all of which brought back players that either have already made an impact, or are expected to in the near future. The thing about flipping those guys, however, was the fact that the Cubs had the extra arms that they could afford to do that. Heading into the 2014 campaign, their depth isn’t quite on that level.
As things stand right now, the Cubs will feature a starting five that features Jeff Samardzija at the top, followed by Travis Wood and Edwin Jackson, and then Jake Arrieta and Jason Hammel at the bottom. On paper, that has the potential to be a quality lineup. If Samardzija isn’t traded by Opening Day, he’s an impact arm at the top and the de facto ace.
Travis Wood reached the 200 inning mark for the first time in his career last year and posted a mighty impressive 3.11 ERA. Although his xFIP that was up over four might indicate a bit of a regression for him in 2014. Conversely, Edwin Jackson’s ERA was up near five, but he was more unlucky than just bad in 2013. He should be able to rebound to his career norm in the upcoming season.
Arrieta is something of a wild card at the back end of the rotation, but has always had tremendous upside. If he can keep the walks down, he should be in good shape and be a steady no. 4. It’s no secret what you’re getting out of Hammel. He’s a no. 5 starter for this team and has had success in the past. The Cubs should be just fine with him as the final starter in the rotation.
Outside of the starting five, though, the Cubs don’t have the depth they’ve had in the past couple of seasons that allowed them to make moves. Justin Grimm is an underrated recent acquisition and Carlos Villanueva is probably better served coming out of the bullpen, at least in a long relief role, than in the rotation. Chris Rusin found some success with an increased opportunity as a spot starter throughout the season and the tail end of 2013.
As things stand right now, the rotation situation for the Chicago Cubs isn’t exactly a stable one. There are questions as far as the depth is concerned. Of course, the likes of Grimm and Rusin could prove to be steady starting options and the Cubs could continue their new tradition of flipping pitchers at the deadline, something that has become the norm during this rebuild. On paper, there is depth with that trio in the mix. Whether or not it actually works out for the Chicago Cubs in 2014 remains to be seen. Expect at least some sort of regression from a rotation that has actually been pretty solid in the last couple of seasons.