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Offseason checklist: Cubs' needs and moves

@MLBastian
January 21, 2020

The Cubs' four-year streak of reaching the playoffs -- a run that included winning the World Series in 2016 -- came to an end this past season. With a new manager installed in David Ross, Chicago has an important offseason at hand. So what are the Cubs' biggest needs entering

The Cubs' four-year streak of reaching the playoffs -- a run that included winning the World Series in 2016 -- came to an end this past season. With a new manager installed in David Ross, Chicago has an important offseason at hand.

So what are the Cubs' biggest needs entering 2020, and what moves have they made to address them? MLB.com is keeping track here. As the offseason continues, be sure to check back for updates.

BIGGEST NEEDS

Starting pitching
There is a hole in the Cubs' rotation with veteran lefty Cole Hamels gone via free agency (one year, $18 million with the Braves). Tyler Chatwood, Adbert Alzolay and Alec Mills offer internal depth options, but it's more likely that the Cubs -- in win-now mode -- will look to fortify their starting staff via outside help.

New skipper Ross 'perfect' choice to lead Cubs

Bullpen depth
A trio of veteran Cubs setup men hit the open market -- Pedro Strop, Steve Cishek and Brandon Kintzler. While some younger arms (such as Rowan Wick and Brad Wieck) earned trust down the stretch, adding veteran help in front of closer Craig Kimbrel is on Chicago's wish list this offseason.

Solving second
The Cubs had a revolving door at second in 2019 and managed an 81 wRC+ out of the position. Rookie Nico Hoerner could be an option for ’20, and there are plenty of other in-house possibilities. What Chicago lacks, however, is a slam-dunk answer, so strengthening second remains on the list of needs.

Sorting out center
The Cubs produced an 87 wRC+ out of their center fielders in 2019. Internally, they could stick with a combination of players for that spot. Or, if the Cubs target a corner outfielder via trade or free agency, Jason Heyward could move up the middle. One way or another, this is a position in need of addressing.

Five questions facing Cubs this offseason

MOVES MADE

Jan. 21: Lakins acquired from Red Sox
The North Siders acquired 25-year-old righty Travis Lakins from Boston in exchange for a player to be named or cash considerations. Lakins was ranked 23rd on MLB Pipeline's list of Boston's Top 30 prospects. The righty had a 3.86 ERA with 18 strikeouts and 10 walks in 23 1/3 innings in 2019 for Boston. He will compete for a spot in the Cubs' bullpen in '20.

Jan. 17: Sadler acquired for bullpen mix
The Cubs acquired righty Casey Sadler from the Dodgers in exchange for Minor League infielder Clayton Daniel. Sadler, 29, posted a 2.14 ERA with 31 strikeouts against 13 walks in 46 1/3 innings (33 games) between the Rays and Dodgers in 2019. His average spin rate of 2,911 rpm on his curveball last season ranked 14th among 183 MLB relievers with at least 150 results.

Jan. 13: Rivas acquired for Kemp
The Cubs traded utility man Tony Kemp to the A's in exchange for 23-year-old first-base prospect Alfonso Rivas, who will not be added to Chicago's 40-man roster. In 122 games last year, the lefty-swinging Rivas batted .292/.387/.423 with 39 extra-base hits, 60 RBIs, 62 runs and 68 walks between Class A Advanced Stockton and Triple-A Las Vegas. He ranked 26th on Oakland's Top 30 prospects list by MLB Pipeline.

Jan. 10: Cubs avoid arbitration with six
The Cubs have only gone to an arbitration hearing once in the last eight offseasons, and the club extended that run by reaching one-year contracts with its six eligible players this winter. Kris Bryant ($18.6 million), Javier Báez ($10 million), Kyle Schwarber ($7.01 million), Willson Contreras ($4.5 million), Albert Almora Jr. ($1.575 million) and Kyle Ryan ($975,000) each reached agreement to avoid an arbitration hearing.

Dec. 20: Tepera inks one-year deal
The Cubs signed righty Ryan Tepera to a one-year contract that will pay him $900,000 in the Majors, or $300,000 in the Minors. He has one Minor League option remaining. The 32-year-old Tepera was limited to 23 games for Toronto due to a right elbow impingement in '19, but he was an effective part of the Blue Jays' bullpen in '17-18. In those two seasons combined, the righty had a 3.60 ERA and 149 strikeouts against 55 walks in 142 1/3 innings (141 games). He will contend for a spot in the Cubs' Opening Day bullpen this spring.

Dec. 12: Cubs pick Megill in Rule 5 Draft
The Cubs took 6-foot-8 right-hander Trevor Megill in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft out of the Padres' system. Megill will come to camp as a contender for a bullpen spot after posting a 3.86 ERA with 87 strikeouts and 22 walks in 60 2/3 innings across three Minor League teams in 2019.

Dec. 6: Cubs sign Winkler
The Cubs added righty Dan Winkler to the bullpen mix via a one-year split contract that includes a $750,000 base salary in the Major Leagues. Winkler, who has a Minor League option remaining, turned in a 4.98 ERA in 27 games in the big leagues last year with the Braves, but he finished the year in the Giants' Triple-A system. In 2018, he was a key part of Atlanta's bullpen, fashioning a 3.43 ERA with 60 strikeouts against 20 walks in 60 1/3 innings (69 appearances).

Dec. 2: Russell, Hultzen non-tendered
The Cubs opted not to tender infielder Addison Russell or lefty Danny Hultzen a contract for the 2020 season, making them free agents. Russell hit .237/.308/.391 with a 79 OPS+ in 82 games in '19, and the Cubs felt his projected cost in arbitration was too steep in light of his role. Chicago did tender contracts to Albert Almora Jr., Javier Báez, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Kyle Ryan and Kyle Schwarber.

Dec. 2: Cotton avoids arbitration
Eligible for arbitration as a Super Two player, Jharel Cotton agreed to avoid the arb process with a one-year, non-guaranteed contract worth $640,000.

Nov. 27: Pelham claimed off waivers
In need of bullpen inventory, the Cubs claimed lefty CD Pelham off waivers from the Rangers. Pelham is coming off a rough Minor League season (11.97 ERA in 42 games between Double-A and Triple-A), but he features a high-octane fastball. Pelham has Minor League options, and he will be a project for the Cubs, who need depth as much as they need big league relief help.

Nov. 23: Cotton acquired from A's
The Cubs reeled in right-hander Cotton from Oakland in exchange for cash considerations. Cotton missed 2018 due to Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, and he was limited to 27 2/3 Minor League innings in '19 in his return from that and due to a right hamstring setback. Cotton, who has one Minor League option left, offers a low-risk, high-reward depth arm for both the rotation and bullpen.

Nov. 20: Amaya among four added to 40-man roster
The Cubs added catcher Miguel Amaya (No. 2 on the Cubs' Top 30 prospects list per MLB Pipeline), shortstop Zack Short (No. 9), righty Tyson Miller (No. 12) and righty Manuel Rodriguez to the 40-man roster. That removed those four players from the eligible pool for the Rule 5 Draft, which took place on Dec. 12 at the Winter Meetings.

Nov. 4: Rea joins 40-man roster; Webster outrighted
The Cubs selected the contract of righty Colin Rea, who went 14-4 with a 3.95 ERA in 148 innings for Triple-A Iowa last season. The 29-year-old Rea gives the Cubs an additional layer of rotation depth for the Major League staff. Righty Allen Webster, who was on the 60-day injured list after sustaining radial nerve inflammation last season, was sent outright to Iowa, removing him from the 40-man roster.

Nov. 4: Rizzo's option exercised
In what could hold up as the least surprising decision of the Cubs' offseason, Chicago picked up the $16.5 million team option for first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Last season, Rizzo hit .293/.405/.520 with 27 homers, 29 doubles, 89 runs and 94 RBIs in 146 games. A handful of injury setbacks cost him a shot at his fourth season with at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs.

Nov. 4: Four team options declined
The Cubs declined a $12 million team option for Brandon Morrow ($3 million buyout), a $5 million team option for David Phelps, a $3 million team option for Kendall Graveman and a $3 million team option for Tony Barnette. All four players joined the free-agent pool, and Graveman signed with the Mariners on Nov. 26.

Nov. 2: Quintana stays; Holland hits free agency
The Cubs picked up the $10.5 million team option for left-hander José Quintana, who went 13-9 with a 4.68 ERA in 32 outings last season. Chicago also declined the $7 million team option for lefty reliever Derek Holland, who had a 6.08 ERA in 51 games with the Cubs and Giants in '19. Holland, who will receive a $500,000 buyout, was used mostly as a lefty specialist, holding left-handed batters to a .192/.286/.242 slash line last year.

Oct. 31: Eight file for free agency
One day after the World Series ended, the Cubs saw Nicholas Castellanos, Xavier Cedeño, Jonathan Lucroy, Ben Zobrist, Cishek, Hamels, Kintzler and Strop all file for free agency. Castellanos makes the most sense for Chicago to try to re-sign, but the outfielder will try to capitalize on his breakout 2019 campaign with a lucrative multiyear contract.

Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.