ST. LOUIS – Tyson Ross hasn’t thrown a pitch for the San Diego Padres since making his Opening Day start – in a 15-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers – and going on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation.
Carlos Carrasco has already been sidelined for a month with a strained hamstring, though the Cleveland Indians are above .500 and have enough pitching to think they could compete in the American League Central.
The Oakland A’s are starting to look like they could become sellers. But Sonny Gray just went on the disabled list with a strained right trapezius – and a 6.19 ERA – and it’s unclear how willing Billy Beane would be to give up an asset with three more seasons of club control.
All these supply-and-demand forces mean the Cubs could find themselves in a difficult position if they’re looking for another frontline starter this summer.
“We’ll keep evaluating where we are and what we need,” general manager Jed Hoyer said Monday at Busch Stadium. “As far as the starting-pitching market, there are a lot of things that are going to happen. Teams are going to fall out of contention. Teams are going to get into contention. So I don’t think it’s quite the time yet where that’s crystallized at all.
“But obviously we’ll keep monitoring it, keep studying it. We’re aware that pitching in general is something that every team needs around the deadline. And I’m sure we’ll be in that group.
“We’ll keep working hard to figure out where it’s going to come from.”
The answers probably aren’t going to come from within, at least not by the trade deadline and not for the rotation, because as good as the Cubs have been at finding hitters and building major-league staffs, the farm system doesn’t have high-end pitching talent at the upper levels yet.
But the Cubs began the season by getting at least five innings from their starter for 40 straight games – a streak snapped over the weekend at AT&T Park – and headed into this three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals with dazzling rotation numbers (23-10, 2.51 ERA, 1.02 WHIP).
The Cubs aren’t going to overreact to Sunday night’s 1-0 loss to San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner on national TV.
“We’re going to score runs,” Hoyer said. “We’re in a small slump right now, (but) we’re going to score runs. If we can keep pitching like this, we put ourselves in a position to win almost every night.”
It’s not only about sustaining this level of performance and taking out insurance against injuries and upgrading for October.
Stephen Strasburg’s recent seven-year, $175 million extension with the Washington Nationals removed the top pitcher from a weak crop of free agents. And the Cubs, in essence, already spent their money this past offseason by combining two winters into one.
This could be an opportunity to also improve the 2017 and 2018 teams, but the price to acquire pitching will skyrocket again around the trade deadline.
“Everyone has discussed this year’s coming free-agent class,” Hoyer said. “In general, that’s going to be a class that’s not as robust (as) it has been in some years. Everyone knows that. Both with the deadline and over this next winter, I think that’s going to have an impact on people’s behavior.”