One of the biggest areas the Chicago Cubs addressed this offseason was the pitching staff as a whole. They brought on Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood to try to shore up the rotation, and relievers Brandon Morrow and Steve Cishek were added to solidify the bullpen. While the new relievers have done their part, the new guys in the rotation have not fared as well. Those struggles have prompted fans to start asking if the Cubs need to look into adding more pitching in order to take them into October and beyond.
It turns out that the front office is, in fact, exploring all options to help out the pitching staff. Bob Elliott, who covered the Toronto Blue Jays for 20 years and is still well connected in the baseball world, tweeted this out on July 8:
Hearing Chicago Cubs may have interest in LHP JA Happ @Jays
— bob elliott (@elliottbaseball) July 8, 2018
The Cubs do have some big question marks from the new starters. Darvish has had several setbacks on his road to injury recovery, putting his timetable to rejoin the staff in question. But even when he was healthy the results weren’t great, as he posted a 4.95 ERA (backed up by a 4.83 FIP) and 1.43 WHIP in eight starts. Chatwood has also had his struggles this year. The biggest one has been his inability to consistently find the strike zone, leading to a lot of walks (8.0 BB/9, to be exact). The excess of walks has helped blow his WHIP up to an awful 1.79 mark, and his 8.1 H/9 rate has helped his 5.01 ERA (backed up by a 5.05 FIP) look worse as the year goes on.
That is where J.A. Happ comes into the picture, as he is currently one of the most sought-after name on the trade market (according to the rumor mills). One big reason for the league’s interest in the southpaw was the fast start he got off to, as he posted a 3.62 ERA, 9.8 K/9, and a .211/.271/.356 slash line against in his first 16 starts of the year. His last two have soured his totals for the year as he allowed 13 earned runs in 8 1/3 total innings, but his overall stats (aside from ERA) still look good with a .227 BAA, 1.18 WHIP, and career best 9.8 K/9.
The top suitors for Happ so far this offseason have appeared to be the New York Yankees and Milwaukee Brewers, with other teams like the Seattle Mariners and now the Cubs talked about as potential landing spots. If the Yankees follow through with their pursuit of Baltimore Orioles star Manny Machado, that would likely take them out of the running for Happ and could open the door for another team like the Cubs to step up and make a deal.
If Happ were to come to the north side that would give manager Joe Maddon some interesting decisions to make. He could go with a six-man rotation, as has been talked about with this team already this year, or he could push either Chatwood or Mike Montgomery into the bullpen. Although Montgomery has pitched very well as a starter this season (2.76 ERA, 1.12 WHIP in eight starts), he would seem to be the most likely candidate to be pushed to the bullpen given the investment the team has made in Chatwood.
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