The Hot Stove has finally ignited, I think. Just a couple weeks before Spring Training games begin, the Cubs have inked the top free agent starting pitcher, Yu Darvish, to a six-year, $126 million contract on Saturday. It is projected that this will create a domino effect, and we will see other pitchers start to sign.
The Brewers were indeed part of the Darvish sweepstakes, and were outmatched by their NL Central rival for Yu’s services. The Cubs were already projected to top Milwaukee in the division this season without Darvish. Now, the edge is even greater with this acquisition. However, there are still an abundance of players that are unsigned and several moves that the Brewers can make to contend with Chicago.
They recently made some noise offensively with the acquisitions of Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich. Those two with Ryan Braun, Eric Thames, and Travis Shaw make for a potent offensive attack that can fare with Chicago’s. Pitching is where the Cubs overmatch them, with a lethal quartet of Jon Lester, Jose Quintana, Kyle Hendricks, and Darvish. Milwaukee’s quartet of Chase Anderson, Zach Davies, Jhoulys Chacin, and Brent Suter is simply not good enough to compete.
Pitching should be the highest priority as we close out the offseason. Former Cubs’ ace, Jake Arrieta, is still available and who the Brewers should intensely pursue. Despite his $200+ million contract demands, he is the most plausible answer to Darvish. Trading is not an option because their farm is still recovering after the hit it took from the Yelich trade.
Arrieta’s stats speak for themselves, going 68-31 with a 2.73 ERA in his four and a half seasons with the North Side. He has dropped off a bit in velocity recently, leading to a dip in numbers by his standards. Still, the past two seasons have been exceptional compared to the rest of the league. I believe he has made the necessary adjustments this offseason to return to form this season. He will not be putting up sub-two ERA seasons, but a mid-high two is a legitimate possibility.
With Arrieta and Anderson (12-4, 2.74 ERA, 160 ERA+ last season) anchoring the top of the rotation, it puts less pressure on Davies and Suter. Those two still had respectable seasons, with both of them finishing with sub-four ERA’s. They have the potential to make a greater impact this season.
In addition to Arietta, a pitcher for the backend such as Lance Lynn would round out a rotation that would rival the Cubbies. He would come much cheaper than say Alex Cobb, and is a better fit. Lynn went 11-8 with a 3.43 ERA and 124 ERA+. Pitching in his first season after Tommy John, the 30-year-old made a better than expected comeback and can do even better this season.
Lance Lynn sitting over here like, "I'm no Cy Young, but check out my consistency, bro."
Lynn lifetime WAR: 14.9
Lynn: Two 200 IP seasons
Darvish: One 200 IP season
Lynn ERA+: 114
Darvish ERA+: 126
— Dan Buffa (@buffa82) February 10, 2018
It is quite the risk to sign two pitchers entering their early 30’s to four or more year deals given their circumstances. On the other hand, if Milwaukee is in a win-now mode, then these acquisitions are necessary. They did not get Yelich and Cain just to have their talent wasted on sub-par seasons. Money is plentiful, so now is the time for the Brewers to make more moves. This new-look rotation will make the Brewers a much scarier team and enhance their chances at an NL Central crown.