Posted on December 7, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
With two starting pitchers likely to depart in free agency, the Chicago Cubs have wasted little time in filling one of the vacancies in their starting rotation. The Cubs announced Thursday that they have signed starter Tyler Chatwood. Multiple sources are reporting that Chatwood and the Cubs have agreed to a three-year deal worth $38 million.
Chatwood was not one of the more notable free agent starters available on the market this winter. However, he could end up being a valuable signing by the Cubs. The soon-to-be 28-year old has spent the last six years with the Colorado Rockies. He’s been up and down during that time, missing most of 2014 and all of 2015 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. But he’s capable of being a solid back-of-the-rotation starter.
After returning from surgery in 2016, Chatwood went 12-9 with a 3.87 ERA in 27 starts. But he struggled to replicate those numbers in 2017. This past season, Chatwood was 8-15 with a 4.69 ERA across 25 starts and eight relief appearances. However, he had noticeable home and road splits, pitching much better away from Coors Field. When pitching on the road in 2017, Chatwood posted a 3.49 ERA, opposed to a 6.01 ERA in Colorado. The Cubs are banking that getting out of Colorado altogether can improve Chatwood’s consistency.
Prior to signing Chatwood, the Cubs only had three pitchers guaranteed a spot in their rotation in 2018: Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, and Jose Quintana. Chicago is likely to lose both John Lackey and Jake Arrieta to free agency. The Cubs could potentially re-sign either pitcher. However, there will be plenty of competition on the open market for Arrieta this winter. Meanwhile, re-signing Lackey would seem to be more of a backup plan than a priority.
At the moment, Chatwood figures to take the no. 4 spot in Chicago’s rotation. Another former Colorado pitcher, Eddie Butler, would appear to have the inside track on the final spot in Chicago’s rotation. Butler figures to compete with lefty Mike Montgomery for that spot during spring training. Unfortunately for the Cubs, they don’t have much rotation depth beyond Butler and Montgomery. Most of the team’s best pitching prospects are more than a year away from the big leagues.
That lack of depth will likely force the Cubs to sign at least one more starting pitcher this winter. Chicago is in the running to sign Japanese two-way player Shohei Ohtani. But with Ohtani favoring west coast teams, the Cubs shouldn’t count on signing him. If Ohtani chooses another team, the Cubs could turn their focus to Yu Darvish, Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb, or Arrieta. Of course, the Cubs will also be in the market for a closer this winter with last year’s closer, Wade Davis, on the free-agent market.
Even with plenty left to do, signing Chatwood is a good start for the Cubs. After spending most of his career in Colorado, he possesses some upside once he stops pitching at Coors Field on a regular basis. If nothing else, he should be a solid complement to the three frontline starters already on Chicago’s roster. Signing Chatwood helps the Cubs to fill a need without taking away their flexibility to make more moves later in the offseason.