4. Alex Cobb
Early in the offseason, many assumed that there was a good chance Alex Cobb would end up signing with the Cubs. He had worked with Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey as well as manager Joe Maddon in the past, and he was expected to be one of the more affordable free agent arms on the market. However, it has taken much longer for Cobb to sign than anticipated, and he is now one of the many free agents still remaining on the market. Cobb has a career ERA of 3.50, including a 3.66 ERA in 2017, having undergone Tommy John surgery in 2015. Cobb has very little postseason experience, having pitched in just two postseason games for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2013. The main downfall of Cobb is his lack of durability. He has never pitched 200 innings in a season—his greatest innings total in a season was in 2017, when he pitched 179.1 innings. This presents some concerns for the Cubs, who need a consistent starter to finish out their rotation. It is for this reason that Cobb would be the least desirable of the marquee starters on the market. While he would still be a valuable acquisition at the right price, Lynn, Darvish and Arrieta get the edge over him at the moment.
3. Lance Lynn
Lance Lynn has not been mentioned as an option for the Cubs as often as Cobb, Darvish and Arrieta, but he is another potential starter who should be less pricey than Darvish and Arrieta. Lynn has spent his entire career with the rival St. Louis Cardinals, and his 3.38 career ERA is very comparable to Cobb’s. He has a lot more postseason experience than Cobb, having pitched in the playoffs for the Cardinals for five straight years in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. Lynn also underwent Tommy John surgery in 2016. Lynn’s durability is the main aspect that gives him the slight edge over Cobb. Unlike Cobb, Lynn pitched more than 200 innings in 2013 and 14, and pitched 186.1 innings with a 3.43 ERA last year in his return from Tommy John surgery. This durability makes Lynn a slightly better fit than Cobb for the Cubs, who need a durable option to fill out their rotation and enable Mike Montgomery to work out of the bullpen for most of the time.
2. Yu Darvish
Yu Darvish is regarded by many to be the best free agent starter on the market, but for the Cubs, he ranks behind Jake Arrieta. Darvish has a large arsenal of different pitches he can throw and a career ERA of 3.42. He pitched extremely well for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2017 after being dealt by the Texas Rangers at the trade deadline. However, prior to the trade deadline and during the 2017 World Series, Darvish struggled under pressure. On both occasions, reports surfaced that Darvish was tipping his pitches, which lead to his 21.60 ERA in the World Series. Darvish has shown an ability to produce consistently throughout the regular season, and he would be a good option for the Cubs at the right price. However, due to his inability to perform well under pressure, if he and Arrieta were available at the same price, Arrieta would be the better choice.
1. Jake Arrieta
Jake Arrieta is the best option for the Cubs of the remaining free agent starters. While some may rank Darvish above him, Arrieta is a more proven starter in high-pressure situations. Arrieta excelled in the 2015 Wild Card Game, the 2016 World Series and the 2017 National League Division Series and National League Championship Series. Since coming to Chicago, Arrieta has consistently produced for the Cubs, including an incredible 2015 run that culminated in a Cy Young Award. The Cubs know Arrieta well, and they know that along with Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood, he would fill out an impressive 2018 starting rotation. Of course, the only roadblock to signing Arrieta is the high price that he is likely to demand. He is believed to be one of the top two starters on the market, and his agent Scott Boras is reported to be demanding a large, long-term deal. However, in the current market with free agents signing extremely slowly, there is the potential that Arrieta may ultimately be forced to settle for a shorter deal. If that is the case, there is a chance that Arrieta could still end up back on the north side, which would be the best case scenario for the Cubs.
If you would like to receive a notification each time a new Chicago Cubs article is posted, fill out our email notification form.