CHICAGO -- Theo Epstein wasn't the executive who said he was going to remake half his pitching staff this winter. That was Jon Daniels.But with Jacob Arrieta, Wade Davis and John Lackey heading into free agency, the Cubs could at least relate to the task that faced the Rangers. Pitching
CHICAGO -- Theo Epstein wasn't the executive who said he was going to remake half his pitching staff this winter. That was Jon Daniels.
But with Jacob Arrieta, Wade Davis and John Lackey heading into free agency, the Cubs could at least relate to the task that faced the Rangers. Pitching was going to dominate their offseason talent search, too.
Daniels' Rangers and Epstein's Cubs are similarly positioned in terms of restocking the shelves as we head into the last full week of business in 2017. Both have made multiple moves that qualify as creative and quite possibly productive, but neither team has addressed its biggest questions.
The reality is that it's easier to accumulate depth than to add front-of-the-rotation starters or proven closers. The Cubs have imported eight pitchers since the end of the World Series while the Rangers have added five (counting only players on the 40-man roster) but none of these are plug-and-play options to fill the biggest needs.
Perhaps the next move will be one of the big ones, as both the Cubs and the Rangers are among teams interested in signing Yu Darvish. Epstein and Cubs GM Jed Hoyer were in Dallas to meet with Darvish on Monday, according to multiple reports (the first by Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com).
It's hardly a surprise the Cubs are pursuing Darvish. They have payroll flexibility available after an offseason in which they've thus far signed Tyler Chatwood, Drew Smyly (recovering from Tommy John surgery in July), Brandon Morrow, Steve Cishek and Dario Alvarez while claiming Luke Farrell, Cory Mazzoni and Randy Rosario on waivers.
Epstein, who was disappointed he couldn't convince Shohei Ohtani to base himself at Wrigley Field, would be a lot more concerned about his starting rotation had he not traded for Jose Quintana last July. He has Jonathan Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Quintana and Chatwood all under control for the next three seasons. There's some safety in that.
Chatwood (signed for three years, $38 million) is an intriguing addition. He's entering what should be the peak years of his career and escaping Colorado, which contributed heavily to his 4.31 career ERA.
The Cubs would love it if Chatwood even somewhat followed the career path of Arrieta after they acquired him from the Orioles, as a 27-year-old with a 5.46 ERA. But are they going to stake their hold on the top spot in the National League Central on an unknown?
Look for Epstein to make at least a couple more major pitching moves this season, either through free agency or trade. Trading for a cost-controlled ace like Chris Archer could be preferable to meeting the high price for Darvish but Epstein has hoarded his young position-player talent, which has so far proven to be a winning formula.
The Cubs believe Morrow has the stuff to close. Cishek has 121 career saves, including 25 as recently as 2016. Adding them to a group that includes C.J. Edwards, Pedro Strop and Justin Wilson could be deemed enough for the bullpen but something's missing, isn't it?
Who gets the ball in the ninth? Maybe that's a question for Spring Training but it should be addressed much sooner.
While competition in the American League West has become tougher, the Rangers continue trying to compete, not capitulate.
That's why they traded for Giants lefty Matt Moore last week. He joins fellow newcomers Doug Fister and Mike Minor in the rotation behind Cole Hamels and Martin Perez.
Chris Martin, returning from Japan after two strong seasons playing alongside Ohtani on the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, is the only significant addition thus far to the bullpen. That means lefty Alex Claudio and right-hander Matt Bush will continue to play big roles, unless Bush is redirected to the starting rotation.
Having traded Darvish to the Dodgers last July, the Rangers appear a real long shot to re-sign him. But he's comfortable in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, so who knows? Maybe a reunion is possible.
Arrieta attended high school in the North Dallas suburbs and college at TCU. His residence is in Austin these days. He'd be a very nice fit for Daniels' rotation.
It'll be a surprise if at least one of the top arms available doesn't wind up with the Cubs or Rangers.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.