Cubs’ offseason focus lies in the rotation

The Cubs need to make a significant improvement to their starting pitching in 2022.

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There will be a lot to focus on when president Jed Hoyer tries to overhaul the Cubs’ roster during the offseason, but starting pitching will be a primary focus.

Starting pitching was the Cubs’ biggest flaw this season, and they need to get serious about fixing it after failed experiments with Trevor Williams, Zach Davies and Jake Arrieta.

Entering next season, right-hander Kyle Hendricks is likely the only starter who will be guaranteed a spot in the rotation.

But when it comes down to which other returnees — including right-handers Alec Mills, Adbert Alzolay and Keegan Thompson and left-hander Justin Steele — might fill a spot, those decisions are still up in the air.

‘‘That’s a good question,’’ manager David Ross said. ‘‘I would definitely pen in Kyle Hendricks. I think Alec Mills has made a pretty strong case for a guy that you can count on as a reliable starter. Then there’s probably an argument for Alzolay, Steele and Keegan Thompson. Like, maybe one of those three guys can fit in there somewhere.

‘‘I don’t know who that’s going to be. I think those guys and the work that they’ll put in [during] the offseason, how they come into spring training and that value of the experience they’ve gained this year . . that will be a nice thing we’ll have coming into next year’s spring training.”

Mills didn’t start the season in the Cubs’ rotation, but he has been able to thrive in a variety of roles since joining the team. He has made the most starts of his career in 2021 and has been one of the Cubs’ most consistent arms.

The biggest question going into next season will be what the Cubs will do with Alzolay, Steele and Thompson. Each has gotten an opportunity to start this season.

Alzolay probably has the best chance at a spot next season, but they all have all shown the ability to pitch as a starter or reliever.

The biggest addition, however, will have to come via the free-agent market. The Cubs had to shop from the bargain bin last offseason, but there’s no excuse for them not to aim higher, given the money they will have available.

‘‘Starting pitching is definitely important,’’ Ross said. ‘‘Pitching depth, I think we get in this mode of starter. I think if you don’t have true starters, you can find depth in other areas. And that’s a front-office [thing], where you find the value and where all that is.

‘‘Starting pitchers are really expensive. I think you can find value in a lot of different areas. It’s just how you deploy those and what the depth is and guys with options.

‘‘I’m learning a lot about the flexibility of a roster and how that can play into long-term success and how you can maximize different areas of a roster with different elements with flexibility.’’

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