The Chicago Cubs have already made their first significant decision of the offseason on Sunday, as they have declined to pick up the 2017 option on starting pitcher Jason Hammel’s contract.
Hammel, who did not appear in any of the team’s postseason games as they won the World Series, had a solid season as the fifth starter in the team’s rotation, with a 15-10 record and a 3.83 ERA in 30 starts for the Cubs.
Hammel was brought back to the team after the 2014 season, when he was part of a trade that sent Jeff Samardzija to the Oakland A’s in exchange for a group of prospects that included star shortstop Addison Russell. After the midseason trade, Hammel agreed to a new contract with the Cubs, and he had a strong couple of years back on the North Side, racking up 25 victories and helping the team to back-to-back playoff appearances.
With Hammel now out of the picture, the Cubs’ attention will now turn to which pitcher will fill his role in the starting rotation. The team has already stated that it will explore options both inside and outside of the organization, but with a weak free agent class of starting pitchers, the team might have to get slightly creative in filling the void.
If they opt for an in-system replacement, there are a few options they could explore. Mike Montgomery would seem to be the most realistic option among the current Cubs pitchers, as the lefty would add more balance to the rotation and seemed to thrive in a long-relief role with occasional spot starts after the Cubs acquired him from the Seattle Mariners.
Other players could conceivably compete for a job, including Carl Edwards Jr. and Trevor Cahill (if the Cubs opt to bring him back), but among the players currently in the system, Montgomery is the most likely option.
If the Cubs go for a trade for a young, cost-controlled pitcher, they should have plenty of options available. A’s pitcher Sonny Gray is always a name that comes up when teams are discussing trading for a starting pitcher, and Tampa Bay Rays hurler Chris Archer would fit the bill as well if the Cubs want a reunion with the pitcher that they traded away when they acquired Matt Garza in 2011.
Another potential option for the Cubs could be Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Archie Bradley, who had a rough season in the desert but is still highly regarded as one of the top young pitchers in the game.
There are other options that could be on the table, including a pair of White Sox starters, as both Jose Quintana and Chris Sale could be dangled as the Sox look to rebuild their barren farm system, but with owner Jerry Reinsdorf seemingly hellbent on making another run at a title in the near future, and with his distaste for trading talented players within the city, that might be a tough sell.
If the Cubs go the free agent route, there are not many options to consider. Most are veterans like Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey, but there a few potential diamonds in the rough, including Ivan Nova and Andrew Cashner. Guys like Rich Hill are also available, but it would seem silly for the Cubs to pay him the money he’ll be expecting when there’s no guarantee that he’ll be able to continue the success that he’s had in spurts during the last few seasons.