Could Randy Wells be the pitcher the Cubs trade this spring?

We've heard so many rumors this offseason about the possibility of trading Matt Garza, but it seemed from the start that it wasn't something the Cubs were eager to do.  He's not untouchable, but the Cubs set a lofty price for him.  It's an indication of how much they value their 28 year old starter.  He's their ace and he's young.  That's how it should be.

The Cubs starter that could eventually be traded is Randy Wells.  Teams right now think they have the right pieces.  It's spring and optimism abounds.  The Tigers aren't saying they need another top starter.  For now they'll talk about how Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, and Rick Porcello are throwing well this spring and that they're comfortable with their rotation.  But they have said they'd like to add a 5th starter.

Danny Knobler of CBS Sports has said that teams are convinced that the Tigers will add a starter before opening day.  Detroit Assistant GM Al Avila confirmed as much,

“We’ll be looking at other pitchers in other camps throughout spring training to see if there’s anything that makes sense for us."

This probably hasn't changed given Jacob Turner's rocky first outing where he walked 4 batters and failed to finish the second inning.  The Tigers are the odds-on favorites to win the AL Central, but they're not going to want to give away every 5th game either, so an inexpensive pitcher with a history of some success like Randy Wells makes some sense.

Wells was solid in 2009 and 2010 posting 3 WAR in each season.  In 2011, he was injured early and then struggled to find his stuff and command when he got back.  But yet, he's still only 29.

So then why wouldn't the Cubs keep him?  He seems to fit some of the criteria Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer seem to value.

It's early, but the emergence of Jeff Samardzija could complicate things for the Cubs.  If he continues to impress and wins a spot in the rotation, that leaves one spot open for either Wells, Travis Wood, or Chris Volstad.  Volstad is out of options and pitched very well in his first outing.  The Cubs cannot send him to Iowa and they certainly can't hope he'll pass waivers.  As for Wood, he's 4 years younger than Wells and more likely a part of their long term future.  It also helps that he's left-handed.  Given the early struggles of the Cubs young lefty bullpen candidates, the Cubs may opt to keep Wood in relief for now if he doesn't make the rotation.  The Cubs top lefty reliever thus far has been non-roster veteran Trever Miller.  He'll be 39 in May, however, and the Cubs may be more likely to go with youth.

In other words, it isn't so much that the Cubs don't value Randy Wells as it just simply seems he looks to be the odd man out when all is said and done.  Wells is still young, but his upside is a bit more limited than the other candidates.  He does have a good slider, but the fastball (88-91 mph) and rest of his repertoire are average at best.

Might Wells be a better fit on a team that needs him more in the short term while he's not to far removed from his peak years? The Tigers are one team.  The Kansas City Royals look to take a step forward this year as well, but lack the arms to do, so they may be interested.  Or perhaps Wells fits with a team that has suffered a recent injury such as the Pittsburgh Pirates. They may want to take a chance on a young, inexpensive arm for their rotation.  Other candidates include the Orioles, Mariners, and the Padres.

As to what the Cubs would receive in return, it wouldn't be a whole lot but it wouldn't be for peanuts either.  Wells is a 29 year old starter with 3 years of cost-control.  That alone has pretty good value in today's market.  From the Cubs end you'd either want at least a lower level prospect with good upside or an MLB ready guy with a limited ceiling.  A trade would also be about opening up opportunities for younger Cubs pitchers who have a better chance of contributing 3-4 years down the road.



Filed under: Pitching

Tags: randy wells, Rotation


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    John -
    nice article. While I know it's been said that "you can't have too much pitching", it appears the Cubs might have that problem right now, which is a good problem to have. Given the way Samardzija and Volstad are throwing, if they keep it up they both need to be in the rotation. I'd like to see Wood in there as well, just because he's a lefty with upside. That already puts us at 6, and then there's Wells.

    I'd be fine if Wells and Maholm got traded early if it looks like these other guys are ready to step up. I'm not completely sold on Maholm - he looks like a placeholder. Wells is solid, but doesn't have much upside. So he would be a good fit for one of those teams you mentioned.

    It's early though, so let's wait and see what happens the rest of spring, right?

  • In reply to brober34:

    Exactly. It's still early. If the Cubs trade Wells it won't be until closer to opening day. It'd look pretty bad if they traded him now and then a pitcher or two got hurt.

    At the same time, how many starters can you send to Iowa or the bullpen? It's one thing if it's a guy like Sonnanstine or Lopez that you have down there. They've spent a lot of time in the minors recently, but I don't think the Cubs will want to send starters down with 2-3 yrs MLB experience like Wood and Wells.

  • How about a Wells/Byrd package deal to a contender for a decent prospect or 2? Cleveland?

  • In reply to Deer:

    Didn't Masterson get hurt? If so it's possible, though it's always harder to package a couple of players like that. I would think the two of them together could bring back a couple of nice players. Not stars, but decent enough to make it worthwhile.

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    I like Wells but if he doesn't make the rotation I'd rather see him sent down to Iowa or traded than make the 25 man roster as a relief pitcher.

  • He's one of those guys that either has to be a starter or middle reliever. He's not your typical high leverage guy out of the bullpen so he'd lose a lot of value in that role.

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    If Shark can become the 3/4 starter he was drafted to be and Volstad comes around I think this is the ideal situation. Especially if Byrd is added in for something decent. He could be the long man/mop up man but I don't think he has he power arm to fit the back of the bullpen and become kid k's complement. Theo's already brought in plenty of mop up candidates this winter in Lopez, Sonannstine, etc.. I vehemently agree with you on the sending them to Iowa thing. How many 5th MLB quality starters can you put down there before the youngster's progress is impeded? I like Maholm in the three spot for THIS years team though if he can pitch up to those standards. He's a lefty version of Dempster in some ways and he can always be flipped at the deadline for a low level prospect

  • In reply to Nate Hummel:

    Agreed, Nate. I'm also wondering if he's at peak trade value right now. If Wells doesn't start this year, he can't be a late inning guy, so he's either middle relief or 5th starter. Value is much higher as a starter, so if you don't think he's going to be one of your guys, maybe trading him is how you get the best value for him. He's cost-controlled, young, and is just one year removed from a 3 WAR season. I'm not sure his value is going to get any higher and, while he has present value to the team as a 5th starter/middle relief/bullpen depth, he's probably not a guy you're looking at in 3 years when this team will be more built to win. He'll be in his 30s with less cost control and quite possibly a bullpen guy by then.

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    Good stuff John! Wells makes a lot of sense for a lot of reasons to be the odd man out.

    I'm of the mind that, if Shark continues to pitch well, they almost have to put him in the rotation just to see if he can do it. If he fails, then you already know he can be an effective reliever, but with no where to go but up for the Cubs, they have nothing to lose by seeing if he can be more than what he has been. His potential upside is just so much more than Wells'.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Thanks Michael!

    I was the thinking the only pause I would have is rotation depth, so I think the Cubs have to be sure that Chris Volstad and Travis Wood can be starters. In a way, Samardzija's fate is intertwined with the success of those guys and depth guys like Sonnanstine, Lopez, etc. If the Cubs feel confident those guys can step in, then it makes it much easier to roll the dice on Samardzija knowing he can go back to the bullpen and you have other starters who are ready to fill in.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Hopefully McNutt is going to get back on track and make that worry irrelevant.

    I just don't see a whole lot of downside to anything they've done this winter or might do this spring. The only way this team disappoints is if it finishes in last place, and they're going to have to play pretty awful for that to happen because the Astros didn't do enough to pick up 15 games on the Cubs.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    McNutt, by the way, was just sent to minor league camp. He was among the first 4 cuts.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    That is not to be unexpected. He isn't ready anyways.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Agreed. No sense having him work on his command against MLB hitters. They'll eat him up. When he's throwing strikes early and often instead of pitching from behind, he'll be ready.

  • If Wells is traded , there should be another player added , like Byrd. If it's just Wells, the most the Cubs will get back is a low level prospect.

  • if Wells is traded , the return will not be much if another player is not added. I like the idea of Byrd being added , otherwise we can't expect much more than a low level prospect.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    I think Wells has some value. He's cost-controlled, he's 29, and he'll give you innings at the back of the rotation...not a whole lot of value but I also don't think the Cubs will give him away either.

  • Sorry for the double post.

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    I've been thinking this for a while now. I imagine they'll build up his value in ST (theoretically) and then trade him to one of your aforementioned proposed partners.

    I love SP depth as much as the next guy, but with Samardzija as a very viable SP option, along with the additions of Volstad, Maholm, and Wood, Wells' opportunity to make the rotation would seem to have greatly diminished

  • In reply to Chris Trengove:


    I think that's exactly right. Let him pitch some good innings and get his trade value up. Someone is looking for SPs every year at the end of spring training. Teams are already monitoring the guys who figure to be the odd man out. John Lannan on the Nats is one, Wells is another.

  • Awesome article, John! What a great problem to have. If Shark makes the rotation, not just Wells would be pushed out. In reality, if Shark takes a spot, Wells is our #7. We actually have a 29 year old starter, that has posted two 3 WAR seasons, and it looks like we don't have a spot in our rotation for him. Theo/Jed did a kick-ass job this offseason! I would imagine we would try to move Maholm or Demp at some point in the season too..?..

  • In reply to dgedz27:

    Thanks dgedz27!

    I think so as far as Maholm and Dempster. They're probably not long term fits, although I could see Demp coming back for less money ala Kerry Wood.

    They're more likely closer to the trade deadline when the Cubs know what they have and teams are ready to add that final piece or two.

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    I know it's WAY early still in camp, but if you could name the Starting 5 for opening day, who would they be?

    Also, who were the other cuts?

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    In reply to Chris Trengove:

    Nevermind - just saw your new post :)

  • In reply to Chris Trengove:

    I think it's going to be Garza, Dempster, Maholm, Volstad for sure and the last spot is between Travis Wood and Jeff Samardzija. If I had to decide now, I'd give it to Wood base on starting experience and track record-- but that could change if Samardzija continues to impress.

  • No one has said a word about Coleman. He had a decent first outing. Plans for him?

  • In reply to JayPea:

    Good point. He is getting lost in the shuffle. He's a long shot but I think he stays as rotation depth. He's basically a younger, cheaper version of Wells that the Cubs can keep either in AAA or long relief.

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    Coleman to me is another wells, he has to have command of the outer half and changing speeds to be effective. Only difference Wells knows how important changing eye level and all that other pitching stuff I bore people with when I talk about it. I thought about this thread in class today and I like moving wells even more because his replacement would come 2 to 3 million cheaper for the same level of performance.

    I read the payroll was gonna be around $108 mil. Take out Zambrano's 15 and Soriano's 18 and that leaves us at $75 million. That's a cheap team especially for a top 7ish market in the world team. That makes me even more impressed with Theo. Ricketts put the total organizational money cap at 200 million correct?

  • In reply to Nate Hummel:

    Great stuff Nate. Changing eye level is a good point. I also like the idea of changing planes (i.e having one pitch with more vertical movement and another with more horizontal movement), that's why sinker/sliker pitchers like Wells are so common. It's a good combo.

    I'm not sure on that cap, there have been different figures thrown around. I thought it was $150 but that that might include international spending. I've also heard that he's been promised he can have the highest payroll in the division, so maybe it's relative.

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    Going from the hitters standpoint does jaramillo teach anything you've seen about head placement and holding it still in order to counteract the pitchers changing all those things up that we have discussed? Growing up everyone in my house was told to keep their heads still and watch how much moises alou doesn't move during his at bats to pick up the ball better but i didn't know if that teaching held true at the pro level

  • In reply to Nate Hummel:

    I don't know if he does, but it's sound hitting fundamentals. At the pro level, they probably won't mess with it too much if you have some success -- though if you have violent head movement, you probably won't hit well in the MLB. I imagine that this level, it's only brought up if it's a bigger problem.

  • The answer to the question posed in the title of the article, in a word, is "No." Epstein's MO is not trading useful, cheap players in their prime at just the moment when their value is at is lowest.

  • In reply to SVAZCUB:

    Are you expecting his value to increase as he turns 30 and closer to free agency?

  • Are you expecting his value to NOT increase after a year in which he floundered for several months while coming back from an injury, and then found his stride late to salvage an otherwise poor season?

    It's clear that Wells is coming off his worst year ever. It's clear that that was primarily due to an injury and that he's fully healthy now. All he has to do is be himself and pitch normally for him and be healthy for a year and his value WILL go up.

    As far as his age goes, finesse/sinkerballers like Wells often do get better with age and perform better in their 30's. Where was Jamie Moyer at Wells' age? He was probably pitching for Toledo, or somewhere like that.

    If they trade him now, someone would be getting a league average or better starting pitcher at a great bargain, and I am confident that Theo and Jed are smart enough to not let that happen.

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