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Chicago Cubs Focusing on Pitching Depth This Off-Season

The Chicago Cubs had a miraculous turn around in 2022.

At the All-Star break they sat 22 games below .500, 14.5 games back of the first place Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central. Over their final 70 games to finish the season Chicago went 39-31.

Over their last 30 games the Cubs were the seventh best team in baseball, over their last 20, the third best team in baseball.

This all occurred after the trade deadline, the Cubs had already off-loaded large swaths of talents, and yet somehow, they improved.

The most notable change was an increase in starting pitching depth.

None of Keegan Thompson, Adrian Sampson, Javier Assad, Wade Miley or Hayden Wesneski started the season in the Cubs Major League rotation, but by season’s end all were making regular starts, and none had an ERA higher than 3.76.

Pitching wins championships, and once the Cubs added depth to their staff, the improvement was instantaneous.

But worryingly, all five of those newfound depth pieces well out-performed their FIP. The Cubs should expect regression all of the players in 2023, save Miley, who’s a free agent.

The Cubs have depth right now, but whether or not they have good depth remains to be seen. And after trading away four bullpen pieces at the 2022 trade deadline, their relief depth is sorely lacking.

That’s something club president Jed Hoyer is acutely aware of.

“We need to add a lot of arms,” Hoyer said in an article by Patrick Mooney and Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic. “You saw what happens when you run out. I don’t think we’re going to sort of stop loading up on arms.”

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The Cubs struggled at the beginning of the season when their starting pitching faltered. Marquee free agent signing Marcus Stroman floundered to begin the season, while Justin Steele took time to find his footing and Kyle Hendricks showed signs of age.

The Cubs tend to play poorly when their starting pitching plays poorly.

For 2023, Marcus Stroman, Justin Steele and Hayden Wesneski are all locks for the Opening Day rotation. Each proved their mettle and has shown they have what it takes to be a big league pitcher.

Meanwhile, Thompson, Anderson, Assad and Hendricks all carry question marks. None have good peripherals and Hendricks’ only positive is pedigree.

The Cubs will probably make one starter out of that group and sign another if Hoyer’s word are anything to go by.

The bullpen is in more dire need of help. Several of the aforementioned potential starters could find themselves in the ‘pen, but the Cubs and Hoyer may find it more prudent to keep them stretched out as starters in the minor leagues in case of emergency.

Brandon Hughes is currently the only lock for the Cubs’ bullpen, and even his peripherals should make evaluators wary. He walked 5.3 batters per nine and had a 4.64 FIP despite his more encouraging 3.12 ERA.

Mark Leiter Jr. should also get a shot on the Opening Day roster for his 2022 performance, but poor spring training could see him fall out of favor. More so than anything the Cubs need bullpen help.

If Jed Hoyer lives up to his word, that could be the Cubs number one priority even before shortstop and center field.

More From SI’s Inside The Cubs

  1. Could Mike Trout Request a Trade to the Chicago Cubs?
  2. Did David Robertson Net the Cubs a Future Star in Ben Brown?
  3. Hoerner is the Cubs shortstop of the future
  4. Cubs Could Give Canario a Shot in September
  5. Could the Cubs Land Trea Turner in the Offseason?
  6. Chicago Cubs Have a New Top Prospect in Their Rankings
  7. Is This Top Cubs Prospect Destined for the Mound at Wrigley?
  8. Steele Offers Glimpse Into Future of Cubs Rotation
  9. Do the Chicago Cubs Have the National League’s Best Bullpen?
  10. Can Christopher Morel be a Long-Term Solution in Center Field?

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