After the Cubs dismal performance in the NLCS against the Mets the real question that needs to be asked is what do the Cubs need to do in order to not get swept next year. The Cubs were outscored 21-8 in the series and struck out 37 times while mustering just 21 hits. The duo of Lester and Arrieta both performed underwhelmingly throughout the postseason and once Chicago’s bats couldn’t catch up to the hard throwing Mets staff it was all she wrote. The Cubs lost their short stop and sparkplug at the bottom of the lineup in Addison Russell to a hamstring injury in the NLDS and Javier Baez played well but he wasn’t the presence Russell was at the bottom of the order.
Theo Epstein has already come out in his end of the year press conference and stated that the Cubs need a couple of starting pitchers while needing to add some arms to their back end. The name at the top of everyone’s wish list this year is David Price who’ll take ball tomorrow night for the Blue Jays in Kansas City in Game 6 of the ALCS. Price was of course the former overall number one pick out of Vanderbilt by the Tampa Bay Rays, so it’s easy to see why he could so easily be sold on coming back to play for his former manager and current Cubs manager Joe Maddon. David Price is going to cost more than Jon Lester but at 29 years old he would form an unbelievable 1-2-3 for the Cubs at the top of their rotation. There are plenty of good starters to be had this winter and the Cubs could be in on more than one depending on how badly Tom Ricketts wants to reverse this 108 year drought.
The other two $200 Million arms are Johnny Cueto now of Kansas City formerly of the NL Central Reds, and Zack Greinke who at 32 could opt out of his contract with the Dodgers and again become a free agent. Greinke has pitched for two other teams in the Midwest already in Kansas City where he won a Cy Young and started his career, and Milwaukee where he was traded to from the Royals. In the deal from Milwaukee, Kansas City got back Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar.
Of course any of the three arms signed this offseason will cost the Cubs their first round draft pick which isn’t protected like it has been for the past several years because they were good. Dexter Fowler is a free agent this year and he’ll more than likely be qualified to protect Chicago if they lose him. It could also deter any team from wanting to sign Fowler because they won’t want to forfeit their first round pick. If a team in the top ten signs Fowler, the Cubs would receive a Supplemental A pick which would give them at worst a top 40 selection depending on how many teams in the top ten sign free agents that have been qualified. Chicago’s first round pick is 28 because it’s not determined by playoff finish but rather regular season performance. Unfortunately the NL Central had the three best records in baseball which means 28-30 is Chicago, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis.
In the back end Chicago has a closer and a decent set up man in Rondon and Strope. They need to find guys that can eat up innings when the starter can’t go seven innings. Adding any of the three arms mentioned previously would allow that need to be mitigated a little bit. Kyle Hendricks is a good three starter, but he’d be a better four. A number five guy in the National League is perfectly serviceable by a player like Jason Hammel or Dan Haren if they’d commit to that role. Chicago’s middle of the order is set for years to come and it’s not even a question of who but where do you put them. Jorge Soler and Kyle Schwarber had coming out parties in the postseason while Bryant and Rizzo are cornerstone pieces to any lineup. The farm system is still deep if guys down there make a big push for big league playing time Theo could wait until the trade deadline and go get the Cole Hamels or Cliff Lee’s of the world mid=season while not giving up draft picks but rather guys they know from their scouting department in terms of what their ceilings are.
The difficult thing with this year was that Chicago didn’t wanna get off track with their plan because it was right on schedule. Had the Cubs known they were going to be in the NLCS they probably would’ve made a move to get Cole Hamels and have him under control for next year. This could be a very fun offseason for Theo. He’s flush with cash and he’s even more flush with cachè with what the team has built. The building process is over and the winning has already begun. Beating the Cardinals was a bigger deal then getting swept by the Mets if that’s believable. The Cardinals were a big brother to the Cubs and they punched them right in the mouth in the most important series to date.
Look for Ricketts to tell Theo to get Price at nearly any cost and any money left over try and get Cueto or work a trade for another anchor in the rotation. David Price should be a slam dunk for Theo not just because of Maddon but because of the AL East connection with all of them. Lester and Maddon will both be selling Price together. Expect David Price to be your number two or three starter next year and looking further into the future would be July 31st 2016. If the Cubs are in first or can see themselves absolutely making the playoffs with a healthy lineup, you could see Epstein pull of a blockbuster like nothing he’s ever done before. Theo Epstein has made some major deals in his time as the head of an organization but nothing could compare to what he may do next summer. The next nine months could be the biggest of his career in baseball and he knows it. He’s close and he could start putting some major chips into play in order to bring this city it’s first National League Pennant since 1945.