Chicago Cubs: 3 cheap trade targets to add pitching depth

(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /
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Former Cub Clayton Richard may be on his way out of San Diego.

Looking to add pitching depth, the Cubs may turn to the struggling San Diego Padres. With such a young team, the Padres are focused solely on developing their young players, so moving 34-year-old Clayton Richard seems like a no-brainer.

Through 127 innings in 2018, Richard’s 4.82 ERA doesn’t elicit excitement in teams looking for pitching help, but there are reasons that the Cubs should be enticed by the left-hander.

First and foremost, Richard pitched for the Cubs in 2015 and 2016, throwing 56.1 innings with a 4.47 ERA. Those aren’t great numbers, but his adaptability to both start or come out of the bullpen was a plus. His familiarity with Joe Maddon and many of the current Cubs players also works in his favor.

Secondly, since missing the entire 2014 season while recovering from surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome, Richard changed his arm slot which has allowed him to get more sink on his pitches. Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs discussed his new arm slot at the start of the 2017 season:

"Richard has dropped down, coming around his shoulders. His slot now is practically sidearm, and it’s been like this since he first got back. It’s more of a natural arm slot, which is good enough, but this comes with a side effect. Richard already threw a sinker, but since his return, it’s gotten a lot more sink. That’s what can happen when you lower your arm, and Richard has become one of the top ground-ball pitchers in the game."

Richard leads all MLB pitchers with a 57.7 percent groundball rate in 2018. He’s throwing his sinker 53 percent of the time, and it’s generated a 3.7 pitch value, the highest its been since 2011. With the unpredictable wind at Wrigley, acquiring a groundball-heavy pitcher could be a wise move.

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Lastly, Richard’s contract runs through 2019 at an affordable $3 million per season. He’d be able to contribute to the Cubs for a season and a half, providing an important veteran presence in spot starts and in the back end of the bullpen.