Rumors: Cubs linked with several options for starting pitching
Kevin Jairaj - USA Today Sports

Rumors: Cubs linked with several options for starting pitching

by - Senior Writer -

Since the end of the regular season, all eyes have gone on Shohei Otani and where he will ultimately decide to play baseball next season. However, a close second was the Chicago Cubs, and that intensified even more after signing Craig Counsell and firing David Ross. This team finished in second place in the NL Central with 83 wins last season and was expected to be significant players in the free agent pool this offseason.

Throw in the Counsell signing earlier this offseason, and the Cubs not only made the first significant splash but made a statement that they are not only ready to win now but are in it for the long haul. As we embark on the rest of the winter meetings, the baseball world continues to monitor the Otani situation and what might come of in Nashville. It is starting to become a will he or won't he sign this week's game as the action has been scarce thus far, to put it lightly.

While he remains the biggest fish in the free agent pond, the trade market has been relatively active this offseason, and it could be even more active once the Cubs get involved. Over the past several weeks, you have heard the Cubs linked to Tyler Glasnow, with those talks intensifying over the past 24 hours. However, with no deal apparent at this point, it is only talks, and the Cubs know they can't put all their eggs in one basket just in case a deal can't be made.

For that reason, Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins have started looking at other teams for starting pitching help, and the Seattle Mariners are coming to mind in a significant way as they not only have one pitcher to look at, but four starters under the age of 27 that the Cubs could be looking to target as a trade option.

Look at this report from MLB's Mike Petriello recently.

"A quality, affordable starter, one who has taken every single start since his 2021 promotion (88 in under three full seasons), who can’t be a free agent until after 2027? If you’re wondering what Gilbert is doing on this list, it’s not that it’s terribly likely the Mariners will trade him or even that there’s a real reason they would want to be rid of him," Petriello said. "It’s entirely that A) they’re maybe the only team with enough or excess starting pitching, and B) they still, as always, desperately need to fill out a lineup that has Julio Rodríguez, Cal Raleigh, J.P. Crawford, and not a lot else to rely on."

The more you read into that quote, the more you feel he is on to something, as the Mariners have options for many teams. Make no mistake; there is no way the Mariners trade away all four of those guys, but with Luis Castillo and Robbie Ray the leaders of the rotation, one, if not two, of these names could be expendable to surround Julio Rodriguez and Cal Raleigh with more talent.

Manager Scott Servais and GM Jerry Dipoto understand that pitching is important but also know that more offensive firepower is needed.

"We’ve got a ton of pitching, and we don’t want to lose any of that or lose sight of who we are there," Servais said. "But we need to add offense. Hopefully, the salary that we have cleared allows us to go out, and whether it’s making a trade or signing a couple of free agents to help out,” he said. “That’s where we’re headed with it. I don’t do the books. I coach the team. We need to get better. Our lineup is not complete right now."

“We’d like to add at least two, if not three bats, depending on what we can access positionally," Dipoto said.

If the Mariners are content with adding more bats and are willing to part ways with some of their arms, Logan Gilbert makes the most sense. The 26-year-old throwing righty has been consistent since breaking into the league and has improved every season since. He is coming off of back-to-back 13-win seasons and has posted a 32-18 record since 2021 with a 3.76 ERA. That included a 3.20 ERA in 2022, as Gilbert has the stuff to be a front-of-the-rotation arm.

Gilbert gives up some hard contact, but he started generating more groundballs this past season. He’s an above-average strikeout guy, has elite command (top-15 in walk rate over the past three years), and his fastball sits 95-96 MPH. For a rotation that lacks swing-and-miss stuff, Gilbert has that, and if he can limit the hard contact and mix his offspeed stuff in more, you are looking at a diamond in the rough.

While Gilbert is the best option, Seattle may ultimately decide to keep him and pair him with Ray and Castillo to give the Mariners three good starters. All would not be lost, however, as George Kirby, Bryce Miller, and Bryan Woo are all options the Mariners have at their disposal, and all are 25 years of age or younger.

When it comes to Kirby, he is the oldest one of the bunch at 25 but will turn 26 soon. Like Gilbert, Kirby relies on his mid-90s heater and has had a ton of success throughout his first two seasons. Across 56 starts, Kirby has thrown 320 innings and has a 3.37 ERA. He also has five years of team control left, which would allow the Cubs to build around him.

Sticking with the theme of young, hard throwers, Miller is also 25 and can, you guessed it, touch 96 with that heater. Unlike the previous two names mentioned, 2023 was Miller's rookie season, so the results were not as great, with a 4.32 ERA. However, the remaining six years of team control are huge factors, as are the 22.2 K% and 4.8 BB%. Look for that rate K rate to increase with more experience, which could make him an elite starter over time.

The youngest option of the bunch is Woo, who checks in at 23 years old. Like Miller, Woo debuted in 2023, and with a mid-90s heater, all five of the Mariners starters can touch 95 MPH plus with the heater. The Cubs don't have anyone besides Jameson Taillon who can do that right now, so they would kill to have a rotation that young with that much velocity attached to them.

Woo was better than Miller as his ERA was 4.21, but with a 3.48 ERA after the all-star break, he only got better as the season went on. His 25.1 K% and excellent contact management (6.3 barrel%, 33.3 hard) make him an ideal fit for Wrigley, as the soft contact rate would play well in that ballpark. Woo also has six years of team control remaining, making him another cheap option to build around.

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