When the Chicago Cubs won the World Series last season, Cubs fans were partying in the street. The curse was finally broken and the future was extremely bright. Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta topped the rotation. The offense was built around Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber.
As a result, the Cubbies were seen as the hands-down favorites to win the World Series once again in 2017. But unfortunately for the boys on the North Side, things have not exactly gone according to plan in 2017. Almost every one of their big name players is having a down season.
But in particular, their starting rotation has been a total bust. Entering the season, the club had three guys who were in the Cy Young discussion a season ago. Lester, Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks all had ERAs at or below 3.10 and WHIPS under 1.10 in 2016.
This year, those numbers have certainly taken a downturn. Lester, now 33, is sporting a 3.69 ERA and 1.23 WHIP while striking out 104 batters in 17 starts. While Lester’s numbers aren’t bad by any means, they are certainly not what the Cubs expected. As for Arrieta, his numbers have gotten worse by an even larger margin. In 17 starts, his ERA sits at 4.33 with a 1.30 WHIP and 99 strikeouts. Meanwhile, Hendricks has been out with a hand injury, with a 4.09 ERA in his 11 starts on the season.
Veteran John Lackey has been even worse, currently sitting as the team’s third starter while Hendricks works his way back. Other starters, such as Eddie Butler and Mike Montgomery, have been far from great as well. So needless to say, the Cubs are certainly in the need of a rotation upgrade.
As things stand right now, they sit in second in the NL Central. Entering play on the Fourth of July, the club had a 41-41 record. This placed them 2.5 games behind the 45-40 Milwaukee Brewers, who currently sit atop the division. As for the Wild Card, the NL West is currently holding it for ransom. While the Cubbies sit in third for the Wild Card, they entered play Tuesday 6.5 games behind the Colorado Rockies.
As a result, one name the team has been linked to has been Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers. But as big of a name as he may be, it would be a move the Cubs and their fans would regret, for years to come.
For starters, let’s look at the kind of season JV is having. The now 34-year-old right-hander has started in 17 games thus far on the season, just like Arrieta and Lester. His ERA currently is 4.96, which is worse than both of the Cubs current aces. His WHIP is 1.52, also worse than Lester and Arrieta. Verlander’s strikeout total, is 92 in 98 innings.
So, with all of that said, one could argue that he would make some improvement in the transition from the AL to the NL. His velocity is up a bit this season, which is always a nice sign. But then you need to factor in the price tag.
If reports are true, which I would believe they are given how big of a name Verlander is, the Tigers are going to want a king’s ransom for Kate Upton’s boyfriend.
Why on Earth would a team with so much young talent make a deal for an aging starter, who is having a season worse than their own aces, pay a premium? This is a team that was not only expected to win this season, but for years to come. Their organization is loaded with young talent.
As a result, having a middling year this year is no excuse to sell off some of those high-quality youngsters for a guy who is going to cost a ton of money ($70 million through 2019). Especially one who is not pitching like the ace he once was.
So as attractive as the name is on the surface, Verlander simply is not the answer for the Cubs this season. If they want to go after an arm in it’s mid-30’s find one that will cost less in terms of players and his contract. The Cubbies are the type of organization that can afford to go after rental player types.
Their rotation is going to need work in the coming years one way or another. Lester, given his age, is not going to remain at ace level for much longer. Arrieta is in a contract year. Given he is over 30 as well, he will likely won’t be worth the type of contract he will ask for. Hendricks is still a bit of an unproven commodity, as he has only really had the one monster season.
So adding Verlander to this mix will do nothing to help the team moving into the future. They need the money to lock up some of their young stars while also finding some short term solutions for issues like their rotation.
What do you think baseball fans? Is Verlander a good fit for the Cubbies? Or would it be a move in the wrong direction? Tell us what you think in the comments!