The Chicago Cubs are off to a great start to the season, coming off four street series wins which concluded with a 3-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics. The team’s pitching staff is near the top of the league in ERA, and there is plenty of starting depth in the minor league system to sustain the big league roster. However, the Cubs could use some ace-level stuff at the top of the staff, a guy who can go out there every fifth day and deal. With the Cubs playing well, and plenty of prospects to deal with, here are three top-shelf starting pitchers the Cubs should go after this deadline.
1. Sandy Alcantara
Sandy Alcantara is coming off a career year in 2022 where he secured his first Cy Young award in commanding fashion. The 6’5 right-hander threw a league-leading 228.2 innings with a 2.28 ERA and 207 strikeouts. With a repertoire of a blazing fastball that can touch 100 mph, a power sinker, a circle change as well as a slider and curveball, Alcantara’s five-pitch mix is deadly and proves to be too much for many hitters.
The kind of upper-90s fastball that Alcantara boasts is exactly what the Cubs need at the top of their rotation. Perhaps, more importantly, is Alcantara’s dexterity, as he turned in back-to-back 30-start seasons over the past two years with a truly impressive 7 complete games in that time. Alcantara has the power, the stuff, and the inning-eating ability to solidify the Cubs’ starting rotation, and he is under team control through the 2027 season. The Miami Marlins have said they are unwilling to trade Alcantara, but they have been perennial sellers for many years at this point and they could benefit from what the Cubs have to offer.
2. Dylan Cease
Yes, yes we all know that the Cubs should not have made that Jose Quintana trade – which can now be safely regarded as the Dylan Cease trade in my opinion. But hindsight is 20-20, and there was never a guarantee that Dylan Cease would end up being this good. But after a 2nd place finish in Cy Young voting last year after compiling an almost unbelievable 227 strikeouts over 184 innings, Cease has emerged as one of the best pitchers in the game. And the Cubs should go after him and bring him back to the north side.
The question is will the White Sox be willing to blow it up this year or next year? Their core is getting older and their pitching staff is in shambles outside of Cease and Mike Clevinger (on a 1-year deal). Time is ticking for the White Sox to either start playing better or face the reality that their team is just not good enough for a deep playoff run. Trading Cease would not be out of character either since the last high-level ace the White Sox had (Chris Sale) was traded to spawn a rebuild.
The Cubs need an ace like Cease, and the White Sox need prospects like Brennan Davis or Cade Horton to jump-start their rebuild. This trade is unlikely to happen this season, as Cease still has two more seasons of control on his contract. But I predict that the White Sox will trade him sooner or later and the Cubs need to be in on the sweepstakes.
3. Shane McClanahan
I know what you’re thinking, the Rays would have to be out of their minds to trade Shane McClanahan, a guy who was in the conversation to win a Cy Young award a year ago. He also has not even reached arbitration yet and isn’t set to be a free agent until 2028. So why would they move him, because it’s the Rays that’s why. Tampa Bay has an uncanny ability to bring in pitchers and turn them into aces. I’d be willing to give Tampa Bay a whole lot of pitching prospects to get this deal done. Call me crazy but hey this is hypothetical. A package consisting of Cade Horton (Cubs no. 4), Jordan Wicks (Cubs no. 5), Ben Brown (Cubs no. 7), and Caleb Kilian (Cubs no. 17) would be very enticing to the Rays and it would honestly be worth it from the Cubs standpoint. Put McClanahan in front of Marcus Stroman, Justin Steele, Jameson Taillon, and Hayden Wesneski and you have yourself a postseason rotation.