Where Cubs could look for rotation help, from Carlos Rodón to Kodai Senga




 

Where Cubs could look for 'quality innings' this offseason originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The World Series begins down in Houston Friday night, which means Hot Stove season is right around the corner.

Which means in a week or two, every starting pitcher will start being linked to the Cubs in free agency rumors and speculation. The rotation is one of the Cubs' top priorities this winter.

Cubs president Jed Hoyer recently was asked specifically the importance of adding a top-of-the-rotation starter.

"I think we're actively looking for quality innings, pitchers we feel like we can work with and potentially make better," Hoyer said at his end-of-season press conference this month.

Pitching coach Tommy Hottovy told reporters at the end of the season the Cubs had already started talking about potential names. There are different ways and approaches to look at what they could do.

Hoyer talked about "intelligent spending" this offseason and making moves to help win now without hamstringing the future.

"We absolutely want to compete next year," Hoyer said.

Some names set to be available on the open market:

Carlos Rodón

Rodón signed a two-year, $44 million deal with the Giants last winter with an opt out after 2022. He certainly will reenter free agency this offseason, and he might be a perfect fit for the Cubs.

At the least, he's among the more obvious looking fits right now as a bona fide frontline arm.

After a good 2021 with the White Sox, Rodón made a second straight All-Star team in 2022 - finishing with a 2.88 ERA and 237 strikeouts in 31 starts, the latter two being personal bests.

He would give the Cubs the power starter their rotation lacks, which will be even more valuable in 2023 with MLB's rule change prohibiting extreme defensive shifts.

Rodón expressed his "love" for Chicago this past summer, and there have been rumblings he's had back-channel conversations about the Cubs. With what he's shown the past two seasons, he's someone who can help now and in the future.

MORE: Carlos Rodón: Still the answer to Cubs rebuild question

With the Cubs, it may come down to how many years the veteran lefty is looking for. If signed, he's someone you could pencil in atop the rotation.

Justin Verlander

Verlander once had major interest in the Cubs before the Tigers ultimately traded him to the Astros five years ago.

Whether Verlander, who turns 40 in February, would have interest in the Cubs at this stage in his career and where they're at in their rebuild, is uncertain.

But if Hoyer wants to compete in 2023 and not mortgage the future (read: "intelligent spending"), look no further than the Astros World Series Game 1 starter.

Verlander, who has an opt out after this season, likely will win his third Cy Young award after a stellar 2022 with the Astros. He went 18-4 in 28 starts, leading MLB in ERA (1.75) and WHIP (0.829) while striking out 185 in 175 innings.

Verlander, whose market likely will be for a short multi-term deal with high average annual value, wouldn't hamstring the Cubs' future. His presence would put less pressure on the promising up-and-coming arms in the farm system.

Most importantly, Verlander would give the Cubs a chance to win next season.

Taijuan Walker

The Cubs liked Walker in recent past. They hosted him for a workout in spring training 2020, before the COVID-19 shutdown, but he opted to sign with the Mariners.

Nearly three years and three teams later, Walker, a proven veteran, again could be a fit. It's expected he will decline his $6 million player option with the Mets and enter free agency this winter.

Walker, who turned 30 in August, missed most of 2018 and 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. After a good performance in the shortened 2020 season, he landed a multi-year deal with New York.

He made his first career All-Star team in 2021 following an impressive first half and finished 2022 with a 3.49 ERA in 29 starts, tied for a career high.

Chris Bassitt

Sticking with veteran Mets starters expected to hit free agency, Bassitt has a $19 million mutual option for 2023 but is positioned to land a multi-year deal if he hits the open market.

The Mets acquired Bassitt, who turns 34 in February, from the A's last offseason. He followed up his All-Star 2021 campaign with a good 2022, finishing with a 3.42 ERA while proving durable, tossing 181 2/3 innings across 30 starts.

In 2022, the Cubs ranked 24th in baseball in innings per start at 4.9 - below league average - and had one pitcher (Marcus Stroman) make 25 starts.

Nathan Eovaldi

Eovaldi faces an uncertain future with the Red Sox. He's set to become a free agent this winter with the expiration of a four-year, $68 million deal he signed entering 2019.

He finished 2022 with a 3.87 ERA in 20 starts, missing time due to injuries, including shoulder inflammation that sidelined him for over a month late in the season. He returned to make two starts.

Eovaldi, who turns 33 in February, has been a big-time performer in the postseason with Boston. His fit may depend on his medicals and where his market falls. He made $17 million in 2022.

Kodai Senga

Senga will reportedly opt out of his contract with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in Japan to pursue MLB opportunities this winter.

He has a long track record of success in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball, holding a career 2.59 ERA across 224 career appearances with 1,252 strikeouts in 1,089 innings.

He posted a 1.94 ERA in 144 innings in 2022, with 156 strikeouts and 49 walks.

Senga, who turns 30 in January, is an intriguing possibility. The Cubs have shown in the past a strong ability to recruit players and have already been linked to him.

And unlike Seiya Suzuki last winter, and other free agents who have come to MLB from Japan, Senga will not have a posting fee attached to him.

Others

While not an exhaustive list, other free agent starters could or will include: 
  
- Jacob deGrom, who said in March he plans to opt-out of his contract with the Mets after 2022. He easily will top the free agent starting pitching market.

deGrom is one of best starters in the game, but he could command a record-setting contract in terms of average annual value, and his health is a question after he made 24 starts combined the past two seasons.

- Luis Severino (Yankees), Sonny Gray (Twins) and Carlos Carrasco (Mets) who each have club options for 2023.

- Former Pirate Tyler Anderson, who had a career year with the Dodgers and made his first All-Star team.

- Former Cardinal Michael Wacha, who missed about a month with shoulder inflammation but had a good 2022 with the Red Sox.

- Jameson Taillon, who has a solid track record and has expressed interest in returning to the Yankees.

- Padres starters Mike Clevinger, who returned after missing all of 2021 following Tommy John surgery, and Sean Manaea.

Looking at current Cubs, Drew Smyly has a mutual option for 2023. He's expressed on numerous occasions he wants to come back and a reunion with the Cubs would make sense.

Wade Miley made a strong impression on the clubhouse as a respected veteran voice but only made eight starts in an injury-riddled 2022. A return seems unlikely.

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