Three Pitching Targets for the Cubs to Replace Jon Lester

Three Pitching Targets for the Cubs to Replace Jon Lester

by January 19, 2021 0 comments

The Chicago Cubs aren’t bringing back Jon Lester, so where do they go next for additional rotation help?

It is clear that the Cubs are starting to enter a new chapter that won’t include many players from their 2016 World Series championship team. Their new President of Baseball Operations, Jed Hoyer, has made it clear that the team won’t be in on any big free agents.

The organization has already begun to cut payroll, non-tendering Kyle Schwarber who was picked up by the Washington Nationals on a one-year deal. His former teammate, Lester, is signing a one-year deal to join Schwarber in Washington and reunite with their former bench coach, Dave Martinez, who’s obviously the team’s manager.

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Now, without Lester in the rotation, it doesn’t look too promising. Beyond Kyle Hendricks and Zach Davies (who’s a free agent after the 2021 season), there are question marks.

Alec Mills and Adbert Alzolay would figure to be the third and fourth starters but even they haven’t really proved they can be reliable starters every fifth day. Mills pitched to a 4.48 ERA in 11 starts in 2020 while Alzolay has only made ten career major league appearances.

The Cubs recently brought in Shelby Miller on a non-guaranteed contract that pays him $875,000 if he makes the big league roster. Miller comes with no certainty that he’ll give much stability in the rotation if he gets in the rotation at all. Ever since he was traded to Arizona from St. Louis, he hasn’t regained his form we saw early in his career.

So who could the Cubs sign in free agency? Here are three cheap possibilities.

Julio Teheran, Age: 29

If the Cubs rotation will have a lack of velocity at the top of the rotation (Kyle Hendricks and Zach Davies), they’ll need someone to give opposing teams different looks. Teheran had an off-year with the Los Angeles Angels last season but was the Atlanta Braves‘ ace for many years.

In Anaheim, his K/9 was 5.74 but in his last two years in Atlanta, he averaged an 8.30 and 8.35 K/9 in 2018 and 2019 respectively. If he can get back to how he was pitching with the Braves, he will be an impact starter.

Teheran should be looking to sign a one-year deal so he can prove himself before going back into the free-agent market and perhaps getting a longer contract. The Cubs would be a solid fit for the veteran righty.

Gio Gonzalez, Age: 35

Gio Gonzalez is viewed now as a journeyman starter after having a solid start to his career with the Nationals. He pitched in 12 games last season with the Chicago White Sox, posting a 4.83 ERA in 31.2 innings.

Gonzalez would certainly come at a cheap price, as his numbers have gotten worse since the end of 2018 with Milwaukee. He pitched out of the bullpen as well for Rick Renteria last season and should be open to doing it again across town if that means he gets to pitch in the big leagues.

Anibal Sanchez, Age: 36

The 36-year-old has been a very valuable piece to the Nationals rotation over the past couple of seasons. In 2019, he nearly threw a no-hitter in the NLCS versus the St. Louis Cardinals after posting a solid 3.85 ERA in 166 innings in that regular season.

He struggled in a shortened season last year, surrendering 39 runs in eleven appearances. That means his price could go down and be in the Cubs’ price range. Sanchez doesn’t blow anyone away with his velocity, but when he is on his game he’s another one of those pitchers that are effective with his offspeed pitches.

It looks like Chicago will have a rotation filled with soft-throwing pitchers that throw strikes, so Sanchez could fit right in.

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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images

 

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