Jeff Passan Says Cubs Looking for Pitching, Would Love Gerrit Cole, Won’t Re-sign Arrieta Unless His Market Crashes

Yahoo’s Jeff Passan joined the Spiegel and Parkins show (full podcast) Monday afternoon to discuss everyone’s favorite underachieving juggernaut, a topic he also covered in a column that ran around the same time as his radio appearance. In short, the Cubs have stunk lately but it’s still early and the sub-.500 record really doesn’t mean anything. Also, they’re looking at pitchers.

Unless it’s already too late, I urge you to not read the comments following that Passan article. I have already trudged through the muck on your behalf and I can tell you it’s not something you want to do. Unless you like being mad, in which case you should have at it. I made the same mistake when I checked the Facebook responses to my earlier post about the Cubs being bad right now. Apparently, I’m having a panic attack and printing fake news.

In any case, Passan went on to say in both formats that the Cubs are actively looking for starting pitching, a reality Theo Epstein shared with Mully and Hanley listeners last week.

Here’s the truth about the Cubs: They already are canvassing the significant market of starting pitchers likely to be available before the trade deadline, according to sources. Much of who’s available depends on the next month or so, when the standings shake out and give teams a truer sense of their prospects for 2017. The potential list, though, gives Chicago plenty of possibilities.

Beyond the always-available types like Jose Quintana and Jeremy Hellickson are Gerrit Cole, Yu Darvish, Johnny Cueto, Ervin Santana, Jason Vargas, Sonny Gray, Alex Cobb, Marco Estrada, Matt Harvey, even Zack Greinke. At least a quarter of those dozen will be dealt, and that might be on the light side.

Please understand that he’s not saying the Cubs are going to pursue all of these players, or even any of them in particular, just that this is what the list of potentially available starters looks like. And you can probably pare that down to include those with at least a couple years of control.

They went the mercenary route last season and gave up quite a bit to land Aroldis Chapman for a few months, which was all well and good given that the Cubs viewed a dominant closer as the last piece of a title team. They can’t take that same tack this year knowing that they’ll have to turn over a couple members of the rotation as it is. Picking up a proven starter with some time left on his contract helps the Cubs in a few different ways by giving them continuity and a known cost heading into the offseason.

Though this organization has already thoroughly debunked the misguided notion that it is unwilling to spend money, there’s something to be said for controlling payroll. And nowhere do the aims of remaining cost-conscious while bolstering the rotation dovetail more perfectly than in the bearded visage of one Jacob Joseph Arrieta, he of the 5.44 ERA and seven-year contract desires.

“They’re not going to re-sign Jake Arrieta after this year,” Passan declared. “That’s just not going to happen unless his market this offseason absolutely crashes, and I don’t see that happening.”

My hope all along heading into this season was that Arrieta would ride off into the sunset with a great last season in Chicago, bolting for the $200 million contract Cubs fans couldn’t begrudge him for taking because they wouldn’t want their team to offer it. It’d be Albert Pujols leaving St. Louis all over again. But Arrieta’s performance to this point has sort of complicated things, and the waters, while far from poisoned, are growing a little stagnant.

No matter where things go from here with the rest of the season, I think both the Cubs and Arrieta are going to be more than willing to part ways amicably without so much as an attempt to work out a new deal. No sources or anything, just my gut. They’re going to have to find someone to take his place, though.

“The Cubs need to bring in another front-line starting pitcher, they just need to,” Passan continued. “And I think they would love to trade for Gerrit Cole, but I don’t foresee that happening, honestly, because a) it’s within the division; and b) the talks are probably going to start, if not with…Kyle Schwarber, then (Eloy) Jimenez, (Ian) Happ, plus.”

That, my friends, is a tall order. I can see one or the other and have been banging the Ian-Happ-will-be-traded-for-pitching drum for a while now, but both top prospects for one starter? Oh, and I haven’t even gotten to the “plus,” which could be another recognizable name. Like maybe Dylan Cease. The Cubs have done a great job of building a deep, balanced system, but a deal like this would empty out a lot of resources.

Then again, it would go a long way toward solidifying a roster that figures to have another three to four years in before contract extensions naturally begin to pull it apart. And a pitcher like Cole would be hard to pass up, even if you’re giving up a boatload to get him.

“Would you give up a Jimenez, a Happ, a Cease and maybe one more guy for two and a half years of Gerrit Cole and three playoff runs?”

Though they were answering at once, I think I heard a “Maybe” from Matt Spiegel and a very definitive “Yes” from Danny Parkins.

What say you?

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