The Cubs have a number of decisions to make for the 2021 starting rotation. With a couple of big names leaving, there will be hokes to fill.
Under Team Control
Current Free Agents
Here's a couple perspectives on what the Cubs should do to prepare for the upcoming year.
Pronk: With Kyle Hendricks and Yu Darvish under contract, some of the heavy lifting is done. The top of the rotation is good, but I want another guy who is capable of penciling in a playoff win. My pick: Trevor Bauer in free agency.
I felt like I saw enough from Azolay, Mills, and Lester to warrant bringing all three of those guys back as 4-6 bottom of the rotation guys. If Lester will come back cheap, his veteran presence could be welcome to fill some innings. I think Mills can be a decent BOR guy in 2021. Azolay took some steps forward, but I'm not sure I want to commit to a full season of him starting, yet. If it's possible to give him a month or two in the minors to iron out some of his command, he can be the first guy up in case of injury.
I'm pretty much over Quintana and Chatwood. Chatwood doesn't give me any kind of confidence as more than a bottom of the rotation flier guy. Quintana's another guy who could pencil into the bottom of a rotation if he's signs an affordable deal. I'm not prepared to offer a fat deal to bring him back, let someone else risk it if they want.
My hopeful 2021 rotation:
Darvish, Hendricks, Bauer, Mills, Lester. Followed up by Azolay, and some guys from a list that includes: Porcello, Odorizzi, Richards, Fiers.
Staci: I don't think we'll see Q or Chatty coming back, unless Chatwood re-signs on a cheap deal. That said, Alzolay showed us some real flashes of dominance potential in his last two starts by adding a wipeout slider to his arsenal that opposing hitters really had trouble handling. Mills is fine as a #5, but if JOWN doesn't come back (or even if he does), the Cubs need to dig into their pockets a little and make a biggish signing. Pronk picks Bauer, but my pick has always been Marcus Stroman (who's since taken a qualifying offer with the Mets, so he's off the table). That would give us: Darvish, Hendricks, "Someone Else", Alzolay, Lester, Mills.
AssMatt: Cyle and Yu are terrific building blocks for the rotation, but I do think we need a solid vet #3 (like Lackey or 1st half Hammel). As much as I like Bauer, he's going to cost too much and potentially be a distraction. I'm with Staci on the Stro-train. But I also think Schwarber is going to be traded for a talented but underperforming SP (Think Dylan Bundy, Daniel Norris, Jon Gray, etc.), with Mills and Alzolay competing for the 5th spot. Don't see the Cubs banking on Mills AND Adbert to stabilize the rotation. If it happens, awesome, but they cannot afford to trust it will happen. Cyle, Yu, Stro, Gray, Mills/Alzolay is my rotation if I had a vote. I think the pitch lab will wake up Jon Gray. Also, bring back Jawn Lestah to compete for the 5th spot, Mills and Bertie can pitch in the pen if needed.
Caleb: The top of the rotation is set for the foreseeable future with the Professor and Bad News (MY Cy Young. I demand a recount). Lester is still an option to return to finish his career with the Cubs if the price is right and for him, that could be his best option in a market that is looking more and more questionable for guys deeper into their careers. I think the top three will be back (Yu, Cyle, Jawn). Alzolay really made a strong case at the end of the season by developing the nastiest slider in the league seemingly overnight. I personally think Adbert would be a strong piece at the end of the bullpen and that slider is a pitch that will get a lot of swings and misses and soft contact. I personally envision him in the 8th setting up for Kimbrel, but chances are he'll take the 5th spot in the rotation. Do the Cubs go after Bauer? The budget says no. However, a guy like Mike Minor could be a decent gamble for 2021. He struggled a bit in 2020, but those struggles could drive his value down and could come in as a budget option while the Cubs continue to develop Brailyn Marquez and also gives them a much needed lefty at the back end of the rotation. He's the kind of "project" budget guy Theo loves so I think it's highly probably that Minor gets a look from the Cubs.
If money wasn't an issue, then Yu, Bauer, Hendricks, Lester, and Minor would be a solid rotation and give time to develop Marquez and allow Adbert to shine in the pen.
Money is an issue so more realistically I think we could see Yu, Hendricks, Lester, Adbert, Minor.
What would your Cubs 2021 rotation look like?