March 19, 2018
With both Jake Arrieta and John Lackey leaving the Cubs, the Cubs needed to replace both pitchers that have been very durable in the Cubs 3 year run to consecutive NLCS appearances. They have done that with free agent signings, Tyler Chatwood & Yu Darvish.
The Cubs signed one of the younger free agent pitchers available this offseason (Chatwood turned 28 years old in December, 2017). Many experts point to Chatwood's road ERA, away from a pitcher's nightmare in Colorado, as a point for optimism that Chatwood can be a reliable starter for the Cubs. The 3-year contract he signed really locks up the Cubs
rotation for years to come as all 5 of the Cubs projected starters are signed through at least 2020.
Eno Sarris at Fangraphs also points out that Chatwood already has some above average pitches (primarily due to good velocity and high spin rate) and he also outlines a few changes to his delivery that could provide even more future upside. A very good article.
Jake Arrieta leaving the Cubs is a big blow because of his durability and solid pitching over the past 3 years for the Cubs. The Cubs signed Yu Darvish to effectively take Arrieta's spot in the rotation. Darvish is close in age to Arrieta, both turned 31 in 2017, Darvish returned from Tommy John surgery in 2016 and had 32 starts in 2017 so he appears to be past this injury. Darvish has one of the best strikeout rates in all of baseball even though it did go down from a high of 11.89 per nine innings to 10.08 in 2017. Darvish should be a welcome addition to the Cubs for 2018 and beyond.
Don't understimate the Cubs signing Drew Smyley. In the past, he was a good enough pitching prospect to be the primary return in the David Price trade. He turns 29 in June and signing him to a 2 year deal lets both the Cubs and Smyley focus on a successful recovery from Tommy John surgery in 2017. Smyley last pitched in the WBC in early 2017 so if things go as planned, he could pitch for the Cubs in 2018. Being a lefty, it may be a good fit for him in the bullpen this year and with his talent, he certainly could compete for a role in the starting rotation in 2019.
Pitching depth is very important in MLB and with these additions, the Cubs now have 7 viable starting pitchers to begin the 2018 season: Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana, Yu Darvish, Tyler Chatwood and the depth includes Mike Montgomery and Eddie Butler. Add Smyley to this mix by midseason and the Cubs should have one of the stronger rotations in all of baseball.
2017 Players leaving the team: Wade Davis, Koji Uehara
Davis performed well in his only season with the Cubs in 2017, but he did sign a big contract with the Rockies for 2018.
Uehara had a 3-4 record with a 3.98 ERA in 43 innings for the 2017 Cubs. He signed with the Yomiuri Giants of Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball league for the 2018 season.
2017 Offseason Additions:
Duensing was a solid contributor to the 2017 Cubs (2.74 ERA in 62 innings). With left-handed relievers being hard to find, the Cubs did re-sign him to a 2 year deal. He's projected to join Mike Montgomery and Justin Wilson as lefthanders in the Cubs 2018 bullpen.
Morrow emerged last year as a top reliever in the NL. He's projected as the Cubs closer for 2018. Morrow has been a closer in the past, but it's been awhile (2008 and 2009 with the Mariners). The Cubs did sign him to a 3-year deal, with the 3rd year being a team option.
The Cubs added veteran relief pitcher, Steve Cishek for the 2018 Cubs bullpen. I read a very good article from Stephen Loftus at Fangraphs that discussed his recent velocity drop, where some of the concerns may be for him and the Cubs, but also pointing out how consistent and durable Cishek has been for many years. Let's hope that consistently continues for the next 2 years in the Cubs bullpen.
The best website I know of to keep up with the offseason updates is MLB trade rumors. They aggregate news stories from sports pages around the country to give you the latest team updates.