Cubs righthander Adbert Alzolay left Monday’s game in San Diego with a blister. The next day, he was placed on the 10-day injured list and Kohl Stewart was recalled from Triple-A Iowa.
Many have thought that Alzolay needed to have his innings managed carefully this year. With this IL placement, that’s going to wind up happening. Blisters can be tricky; you wouldn’t think they would keep pitchers out for too long, but I wouldn’t necessarily expect Alzolay to return just after the 10-day period. More probable is that they could even hold him out until the end of the month — if they can find a satisfactory replacement.
At this writing, the Cubs have not yet named any starting pitchers for the series against the Cardinals that begins Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field. They could go with Kyle Hendricks for the first game of the series, as Hendricks last threw on Sunday and that would be “normal” four days rest. But the next starter in the rotation, Zach Davies, wouldn’t be on four days’ rest for a start Saturday, so the Cubs would have to slot in someone else for that game. It could be Stewart, or it could be Alec Mills, who was activated from the IL this week and who threw one inning Tuesday. Or, possibly both, with Saturday’s game being something of a bullpen game.
In any case, beyond Hendricks, Davies and Jake Arrieta, the Cubs are going to need help in the starting rotation if they are going to continue to compete in the NL Central.
That means looking to the outside for help by trade. Cubs President of Baseball Operations recently told Russ Dorsey of the Sun-Times that there could be money available for in-season acquisitions, especially with Wrigley Field back to 100 percent capacity:
“As far as flexibility, we’ve had these projections for a little bit and feel like we’re a bit ahead of schedule,” Hoyer said. “There’s definitely flexibility to make moves in-season if the right thing presents itself.”
Which starters are out there who could be available?
Everyone’s talking about Max Scherzer of the Nationals, who’s still at the top of his game at age 36 (37 next month), and who is very likely to be dealt since the Nats seem headed out of contention. Our friends at Viva el Birdos did a deep dive into a possible Scherzer trade for the Cardinals. Of course, that wouldn’t be good for the Cubs, but the bottom line is... the bottom line. Scherzer is owed a lot of money for the rest of 2021, and also has some deferred money from the last couple of seasons (and despite what’s stated in that article, it’s not clear who would owe that money in the event of a trade).
The pitcher I’ve had my eye on recently is Kyle Gibson, currently with the Texas Rangers, another club that’s likely not playoff-bound. Gibson is 33 and having the best year of his career, with a 2.13 ERA and 1.005 WHIP and only five home runs allowed in 71⅔ innings. That does raise some caveats. Gibson, in his nine-year career with the Twins and Rangers, has never been this good previously. Is he a candidate for reversion to the mean?
Maybe, but also maybe the Cubs could ride this hot streak to the end of the season. Gibson would not be expensive. He is being paid $9,666,666 this year, so trading for him near the deadline would cost about $5 million (or so) for 2020. He’s also owed $7,666,667 for 2022, again, not a huge amount of money. Taking on all that money would likely mean the Cubs wouldn’t have to send along a big prospect pile in trade.
Another 33-year-old righthander likely available is Alex Cobb. Cobb was often attached to Cubs rumors over the last few years, and most probably because Cobb pitched several seasons for Joe Maddon in Tampa. This also seems the likely reason Cobb landed in Anaheim this year, reunited with Maddon. Cobb currently has a 4.24 ERA and 1.215 WHIP in eight starts; his last good year was 2017. He’s making $15 million this year, but the Orioles (who signed him to a multiyear deal before 2018) are on the hook for $10 million of that, so the financial cost to the Cubs would be minimal.
I do see the Cubs going after a starting pitcher as the deadline approaches. Some still might think the Cubs are heading to a selloff of Kris Bryant, Javier Báez and Anthony Rizzo, all free agents after 2021, but I cannot see them doing this from first place in the NL Central. As long as the Cubs continue to lead the division or be close to that, management is going to want to try to win now. Another starting pitcher with MLB experience would go a long way to helping achieve that goal.
Returning to the pitcher featured in the headline to this story, could Adbert Alzolay still be a guy who could help out the Cubs later this season? I’ll admit, I wasn’t one who thought his innings needed to be limited. But now that they will be, perhaps managing those innings will help him later in the year.
Which starting pitcher should the Cubs go after at or near the trade deadline?
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Someone else (leave in comments)
No one, the Cubs should be sellers