3 Jameson Taillon replacements the Cubs should open the wallet for

The Chicago Cubs need pitching help with Jameson Taillon on the mend.

Jameson Taillon, Chicago Cubs
Jameson Taillon, Chicago Cubs / Matt Dirksen/GettyImages

After being scratched from the Chicago Cubs' spring training lineup earlier this month, Jameson Taillon is expected to be out until at least mid-April, per Andy Martinez of Marquee Sports Network. That's a difficult blow to the Cubs bullpen.

Taillon appeared in 30 games (29 starts) for Chicago last season, posting a 4.84 ERA and 1.276 WHIP with 140 strikeouts in 156.1 innings pitched. It was a tale of two halves for Taillon, who started the season frigid before working himself back into form down the stretch. The Cubs need him in tip-top shape for the 2024 campaign.

The Cubs' pitching staff has been a point of concern for the fanbase. With Marcus Stroman gone, there is a lot riding on the immediate translation of 30-year-old rookie Shota Imanaga. The Japanese ace has the stuff to contribute straight away, but there's no guarantee. It takes time to adjust to the intricacies of MLB pitching. Just ask Yoshinobu Yamamoto.

Justin Steele made the All-Star game last season and Taylor Hendricks is a solid second-tier starter, but the Cubs don't have the top-end arm talent to match the NL's elite teams. There's a chance to offset such concerns with depth if Taillon can get healthy and play up to his potential, but it's a risky bet. The Cubs would — and should — feel much better with another major addition to boost Craig Counsell's options on the mound.

Here are a few targets Chicago should strongly consider.

3. Mike Clevinger should be available to Cubs for cheap

The Texas Rangers landed Michael Lorenzen for one year at $4 million, which should set the (rough) market for 33-year-old Mike Clevinger. Those two have been intertwined in recent rumors as available mid-tier starters who can still contribute at a high level. Lorenzen was an All-Star in 2023; Clevinger was more consistent front-to-back, finishing the season with a 3.77 ERA and 1.226 WHIP in 24 starts.

In terms of consistency, Clevinger has been borderline elite. In six MLB seasons, his ERA has ballooned above 4.00 just twice — one being his rookie campaign. There are injury concerns, sure, but when it comes to the vets still remaining in free agency, few profile as a stronger bet to make an immediate positive impact.

As the fourth or fifth starter in a full-strength Cubs rotation, Clevinger can bring valuable experience and stability. He's a fly-ball pitcher, so he won't necessarily pitch to the Cubs' elite defense. But, Clevinger also limits explosive swings, with a hard-hit rate (35.9 percent) in the 72nd percentile.

Clevinger locates his pitches well, avoids walks, and as the cherry on top, he spent last season with the Chicago White Sox. That's not to say the Cubs get a hometown discount, but the appeal of staying in town could push Clevinger in their direction.

2. Cubs should try to pry Jesus Luzardo away from the Marlins

A popular trade candidate flying under the radar this offseason is Miami Marlins ace Jesus Luzardo. It's not hard to see why teams might be interested; Luzardo is 26 years old with three years of team control left on his contract. If Chicago parts with the right collection of prospects, Luzardo can anchor the top of the rotation through at least 2026. The Cubs would also get the theoretical upper hand when it comes to keeping Luzardo around long-term.

Now, he won't come cheap. The Cubs won't need to open their wallet much in the immediate future — Luzardo is set to make $5 million in 2024 — but, Chicago will have to dip into its excellent farm system. Factor in a potential extension down the line, and this is a serious investment from the Cubs front office. Jed Hoyer shouldn't pour in the resources to acquire Luzardo unless there is true confidence in his future outlook.

Thankfully, it shouldn't be too hard to justify that level of optimism. Luzardo was excellent on the mound for Miami last season, posting a 3.58 ERA and 1.215 WHIP in 32 starts. He's at the very beginning of his prime window too, with high-90s heat, a nasty slider, and a penchant for coaxing missed swings (whiff rate in the 86th percentile).

Chicago gets a wheeling and dealing youngster to contribute now, who also has the chance to get significantly better over the course of his Chicago tenure. That's the perfect compromise for the generally cheap Cubs front office. Luzardo won't cost much financially until he can prove his value to Chicago, hopefully on a postseason stage.

1. Cubs can end our collective misery and sign Jordan Montgomery

Jordan Montgomery is the last high-profile Scott Boras client without a contract. For all the hype surrounding Boras' hard-core negotiating tactics, he hasn't been able to land the lucrative long-term deals his clients desired. How much of that is his fault is unclear. Most of it feels like a side effect of the downturned market, with teams reluctant to allocate major resources to good-but-flawed players.

That makes it a bit shocking that Monty is the last Boras man standing. Cody Bellinger has ample injury concerns on his ledger; so does Blake Snell. Matt Chapman couldn't really hit last season. Montgomery, however, has made his reputation as a fairly stable, reliable option. He was also excellent during the Rangers' World Series run, proving his mettle on baseball's grandest stage.

A team ought to pay Montgomery eventually. Cubs manager Craig Counsell even joked about signing Montgomery at Cody Bellinger's re-introductory press conference. The Cubs would benefit from an established veteran at the top of the rotation. Steele and Imanaga should be a potent 1-2 punch, but neither has cut his teeth in the playoffs. Montgomery would offer the Cubs a proven postseason weapon.

He generally stays healthy, too. Montgomery has eclipsed 150 innings pitched in each of his last three seasons. If the Cubs can land him on the new trademark Boras deal — a couple years with opt-outs — then Jed Hoyer should jump at the opportunity. Absent true long-term risk, there's not much reason to avoid Montgomery. It's only the front office being cheap.

Montgomery finished last season with a 3.20 ERA and 1.193 ERA in 32 starts, tallying 166 strikeouts in 188.2 innings pitched. The talented southpaw would meaningfully boost the Cubs' competitive outlook in 2024.

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