Cubs: 1 free agent Chicago must sign before Opening Day

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If the Chicago Cubs want to prevent the St. Louis Cardinals from walking away with the NL Central title, then they must add to their starting rotation in 2021.

Earlier this winter, little to nothing happened in the NL Central in terms of transactions. But then, the teams awoke from their deep slumber and began making some free agency signings.

The Chicago Cubs made two big signings in former Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson and their former starting pitcher from 2013-17 in Jake Arrieta. The issue is, the St. Louis Cardinals did exceptionally better by re-signing Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina, while also pulling off the blockbuster trade for Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado.

With the Cardinals looking like the favorites to win the division in 2021, the Cubs can serve as a roadblock to their rivals by making an addition to their starting rotation. Luckily for them, Jake Odorizzi is still available in free agency.

Odorizzi would improve Chicago’s starting rotation

It was quite obvious this offseason that the Cubs were in cost-cutting mode. With the likes of Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant all hitting the open market next winter, it is virtually impossible to re-sign them all. While many will write off the Cubs in 2021, they still have a strong enough roster to make a run.

The biggest loss the Cubs had this offseason was starting pitcher and NL Cy Young runner-up Yu Darvish. With the pitcher owed $59 million over the next three seasons, the Cubs opted to trade him to the San Diego Padres in exchange for Zach Davies and four prospects.

While Davies is a solid arm to add to Chicago’s rotation, there is still time to bolster it further by signing Odorizzi.

When looking at his career statistics, you can’t read too far into Odorizzi’s 2020 numbers. That year, he was limited to 13.2 innings through four games due to injuries. But when you look at his numbers in 2019, he becomes a more appealing option for the Cubs and other teams to consider. In 30 games that year, Odorizzi recorded a 3.51 ERA, a 1.21 WHIP and 178 strikeouts over 159 innings of work.

The Cubs could opt to trade one of the aforementioned players set to hit free agency for the sake of getting some sort of return. But the Cubs do have the chance to contend for the division title this year. Why not go for one more postseason run? That is why they should take advantage of the market and bring in Odorizzi on a 1-2 year contract to add alongside Kyle Hendricks, Davies and Arrieta in the rotation.

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