Cubs left-hander Jon Lester is signed through 2020, but he admitted Saturday that the acquisition of Jose Quintana alleviates some of his curiosity over the possibility that Jake Arrieta and John Lackey won’t return next season.
"That wasn’t going to go unaddressed," Lester said. "I was a little surprised it happened now. Usually a trade like that happens kind of last minute (before the trade deadline). So that’s good for us. We get those extra couple of weeks with him here and get him comfortable."
The Cubs remain on the hunt for more controllable starting pitching. A source confirmed Saturday the Cubs still have interest in the Athletics’ Sonny Gray, although the trades of Gleyber Torres, Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease has depleted their pool of high-end minor-league talent in the last 13 months.
And Oscar De La Cruz, their top pitching prospect, hasn’t pitched in nearly two months because of a tender arm.
Lester stressed the importance of the Cubs maximizing Quintana’s talent toward achieving another World Series title at the high cost of giving up prospects.
"That’s on us to play well, and whatever (President Theo Epstein) decides we need, we need," Lester said. "At the same time, the guys in the clubhouse can’t worry what’s going on there and who’s talking about what."
Six likely not in mix: The Cubs seem to be leaning against a six-man rotation when Kyle Hendricks returns from the 10-day disabled list.
But the rotation will become more definitive after series with the Braves in Atlanta ends Wednesday. Hendricks is expected to throw five innings and between 65 and 75 pitches in his second minor-league rehab start for Double-A Tennessee on Monday, and Lackey will start Tuesday against the Braves for the first time since being placed on the disabled list after suffering plantar fasciitis of his right foot.
The Cubs want to align their rotation for the most favorable matchups against the Cardinals on July 21-23 and against the first-place Brewers on July 28-30.
Maddon wouldn’t say whether left-hander Mike Montgomery would be dispatched to the bullpen, but Montgomery has a 2.50 ERA in 19 relief appearances and a 5.77 ERA in seven starts.