The Cubs’ reported agreement with Joc Pederson this morning registered as something of a surprise, as much of the focus for the team this winter has been on paring back payroll and restocking the farm system. However, David Kaplan of NBC Sports Chicago reports (via Twitter) that owner Tom Ricketts recently gave president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer and his staff the approval to increase 2021’s payroll. Bruce Levine of 670 The Score tweets that the Cubs are in pursuit of some veteran arms, again listing Carlos Rodon and Jeff Samardzija as two possibilities. Both will throw for the Cubs this weekend.
To be clear, there’s no indication that Ricketts has green-lighted a return to the Cubs’ $200MM+ payrolls. Asked by one follower about a potential move for Trevor Bauer, Kaplan characterized the chances as effectively nonexistent. But the Cubs’ 2021 commitments sit around the $150MM mark even after the Pederson agreement, and the news of even a modest payroll increase creates the possibility of at least adding some low-cost veterans.
ESPN’s Jesse Rogers tweets that the Cubs could pick up one or two low-cost arms in the near future, adding that there’s interest in a reunion with Jake Arrieta. The former NL Cy Young winner was slated to throw for interested teams today. Even if a deal with Arrieta can’t be worked out for one reason or another, the market offers comparable buy-low opportunities that could provide the Cubs with some needed depth. Speculatively speaking, any of Rodon, Samardzija, Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz or Trevor Williams could fit that bill. Old friends Cole Hamels and Rich Hill remain unsigned as well.
Having traded Yu Darvish to the Padres, Chicago’s current rotation is likely to be fronted by Kyle Hendricks, Zach Davies and Alec Mills. Prospects Adbert Alzolay, Brailyn Marquez and Tyson Miller could all vie for starts as well, and the Cubs did ink former Twins prospect Kohl Stewart to a big league deal just yesterday (albeit with a near-minimum $700K guarantee). Former Cardinals/Braves star Shelby Miller will be in camp as a non-roster player this spring, too.
Clearly, beyond the top starters, that group lacks experience and/or recent success. Add in the limited workloads that all pitchers had in last year’s shortened slate of games, and the Cubs’ need to bring in some arms becomes all the more clear. Hendricks was one of MLB’s leaders with 81 1/3 innings pitched. Davies (69 1/3 innings) and Mills (62 1/3) also had relatively strong workloads, but no one else on the current Cubs roster reached even 30 MLB innings. Alzolay, Marquez, Miller and others were getting work in simulated games at the team’s alternate training site, but there has to be some concern about too radically increasing the workloads of the organization’s top prospects.