Adding Miley 'a great way to start' for Cubs
Chicago looking to diversify pitching staff, address 'a lot of holes'
CARLSBAD, Calif. -- The Cubs entered the offseason with rotation help as a top priority, but not necessarily with Wade Miley's name circled as a primary target. Adding the lefty was an unexpected and welcome development.
"To be able to do that in early November was exciting for us," Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said on Tuesday night at the GM Meetings. "We're certainly not at the end of that process, but that was a great way to start it."
The Cubs claimed Miley off waivers from the Reds on Friday and picked up the veteran's $10 million club option two days later. As Cincinnati looked to shed payroll, Chicago saw an opportunity to capitalize on its opportunistic waiver position and financial flexibility.
It was the kind of value-based addition -- Miley is coming off a 6.0 WAR showing with Cincinnati and memorably spun a no-hitter last season -- that might typically occur closer to Spring Training. With uncertainty surrounding the Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations, this was a chance for the Cubs to instead strike early.
That may have been a bit of foreshadowing for Chicago's offseason strategy as it aims to fill multiple holes.
"You never know what opportunities are going to present themselves," Hoyer said. "And what I've learned in this game is, they always will. If you're sort of in a position to be nimble, there will always be opportunities."
What's next on the Cubs' to-do list?
As Hoyer noted, the addition of Miley is hardly the finish line for the pitching staff. Right now, the rotation projects to include Kyle Hendricks and potentially Alec Mills, with Adbert Alzolay, Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson as starting candidates.
The one thing Chicago wants to keep addressing with its rotation is the makeup of the group. Hoyer reiterated that the starters have been too similar in recent seasons, which has been "putting tremendous pressure" on the defense.
Consider that the Cubs' starters as a whole threw a Major League-leading 5,088 pitches that were two-seamers or sinkers last season, per Statcast. The Brewers ranked second in the National League at 2,989. On top of that, Chicago's rotation ranked last in MLB with an average fastball (all types combined) velocity of 89.7 mph.
"We have to get away from that," Hoyer said. "There's always that question that you can't really prove, but is there a degradation among the staff if you have too many guys throwing two-seamers and control-command guys? At some point, are you just comfortable when you've seen that a couple days in a row?
"I do think we have to find some different looks. Some of that comes with some more power."
If the Cubs look to the open market, one thing to keep in mind is the compensation tied to any free agent who received and rejected a one-year, $18.4 million qualifying offer from their previous team. For the Cubs, they would lose their second-highest pick in the '22 MLB Draft and $500,000 from their international bonus pool for such a signee.
That makes free-agent arms like Carlos Rodón, Jon Gray or Steven Matz -- none of whom received a qualifying offer -- interesting potential targets for a team in Chicago's position.
"Certainly, it's something we have to factor in," Hoyer said of the free-agent compensation component. "You just have to weigh it accordingly as you think through it. I wouldn't go past that. It's just something that, it's a calculus we have to do if we're going to swim in those waters."
And, it is worth noting here that the Cubs will be swimming in all kinds of waters in the weeks and months ahead.
Beyond rotation reinforcements, Chicago will be in the market for a shortstop, veteran bullpen help, a backup catcher capable of offering Willson Contreras more rest days and possibly more power for the lineup.
"Listen, we have a lot of holes," Hoyer said. "Our whiteboard is full."
That is why the quick, early move to bring Miley into the fold was an important one for the North Siders.
"You try not to be surprised," Hoyer said. "But yeah, I guess I would say we were excited he was on waivers. ... We didn't necessarily expect that he would be available."