February 8, 2019


The Great Failure of Team Theo is the lack of development of one starting pitcher.

The Tribune's Mark Gonzalez finds that this is a troublesome development, especially when Theo's Plan B, buy pitching, has hit a fiscal brick wall. The Cubs traded one of the few pitching prospects, Dylan Cease, to the White Sox (with star OF prospect Eloy Jimenez) for Jose Quintana, a quality starter for a team in the position to win now.

Cease was still in low Class A at the time — two full seasons after returning from surgery.

The Cubs have been open about their failure to develop a deep pool of homegrown pitchers despite an abundance of candidates, and they have vowed to push those pitchers harder than in the past.

“We have to re-evaluate what we’ve been doing because it hasn’t been working,” Jason McLeod, the Cubs’ senior vice president of scouting and player development, said last month at the Cubs Convention. “It’s really that — looking at ourselves and looking at some of the things we can do to change that.”

Given the age and cost of their projected 2019 rotation, the Cubs have an urgent need to develop young starting pitchers. Cole Hamels (age 35), John Lester (35) and  Yu Darvish (32) will earn $62.5 million in base salaries, with Hamels scheduled to be a free agent after this season and Lester after 2020 unless he meets certain innings benchmarks.

Cease, one of seven pitchers selected by the Cubs in the first 10 rounds of the 2014 draft, isn’t the only pitching prospect the Cubs have traded for veteran help. They dealt 2013 10th-round pick Zack Godley to land catcher Miguel Montero in 2014. And they traded 2012 supplemental first-round pick Paul Blackburn in a deal for Mike Montgomery in 2016. The result has been a reliance on the free-agent and trade markets to fill out their rotation at a high cost. None of those pitchers have set the league on fire.

We have expressed frustration in the past as half of the draft classes were used on pitching prospects.
The irony is that the Cubs scouting department and minor league coaches are good at drafting and signing hitters as the roster is full of home grown talent. The best prospects are still in Class A, a long way from showing any major league potential.

Some teams seem to have a higher level of competence than others. The White Sox have a ton of quality starting pitchers in their minor league system. Their problem is that they cannot draft and develop hitters (especially under the Kenny Williams GM days).

The only way the Cubs can change this major sink hole is to hire the best pitching development coordinators from a proven major league organization. But that is easier said than done.