The Cubs very nearly traded closer Carlos Marmol for starting RHP Dan Haren, but apparently backed out late. We're left to speculate as to why but we're told that Marmol ok'd the deal, which seemingly makes this different from the Ryan Dempster fiasco.
One guy we've come to trust here is David Kaplan and he was among the first to tweet that the deal was not yet done and that financials and medicals were being reviewed. Not too long afterward, the deal died. Coincidence? Possibly, but if the Cubs pulled out of the deal late then it could well have to do with the medical records. We know that Haren has had back issues and that he saw his velocity drop by about 2 mph last season. We also know that he pitched hurt all year. Is it possible there was enough damage there to scare the Cubs off? It's only speculation but we' may never know.
What we do know is that the Cubs need to move on. Starting pitching is still a priority and the Cubs will probably need to add at least 2 arms this offseason.
So who's left?
I'm going to assume that both Zach Greinke and Anibal Sanchez are out. Greinke is expected to get at least a 5 year/100M deal while Sanchez lost the undervalued tag when he performed big for Detroit in their run through the playoffs. There's Ryan Dempster, whom we talked about here, and Dan Haren, of course, who is now officially a free agent. There is Edwin Jackson, who is almost certainly looking for a multi-year deal. If he finds that he's getting one year offers again, then perhaps the Cubs have a chance to swoop in with a strong 2 year deal, but I find that scenario unlikely. He'll probably get the 3-4 year offers he's looking for this time around. Not a fan of signing Kyle Lohse, not for this team at this time. He's going to want to cash in on a multi-year deal but he'll be 36-37 years old when it's over. Wrong timing for the Cubs considering where they are now. I think some team will regret that extra year or two he gets at the end of the deal -- unless they are in win now mode, which as we all know, the Cubs aren't. I like Brandon McCarthy but after what happened last season and the support of the fans out there, it's hard for me to imagine him leaving. I think the A's will get a significant hometown discount.
Of course, if they all fall within a reasonable price/contract length range all bets are off. There's no reason why the Cubs couldn't sign any of those pitchers. But I don't expect that right now in a pretty weak free agent market.
So what will the Cubs be looking for?
- Friendly deals but that doesn't necessarily mean they'll go cheap. They have payroll space. What they are most likely to look for are pitchers who will sign for 2 years to give them long term financial flexibility.
- They'll want pitchers who throw strikes.
- They'll want pitchers with the potential to provide greater value than what they signed them for, so look for pitchers coming off of injuries and off years, much like Dan Haren was.
- Age may not be as important as we might think at first because the likelihood is that whomever they sign isn't likely to be part of their long term plans anyway.
Pitchers who fit the bill...
Why he fits: He throw strikes (1.6 walk rate last year) and strikes people out (7,82 K rate). He's also an innings eater.
Why he doesn't: He gets hit. A lot. And his xFIP, which was a very good 3.39 last year, has been significantly lower than his ERA for 3 straight years. At what point do you stop calling it bad luck and start thinking that this guy leaves too many fat pitches in the zone?
Why he fits: Like Blanton he throws strikes (2.98 walk rate) and misses bats (7.91 K rate) despite less than overpowering stuff. While he has solid control, he doesn't throw as many strikes as Blanton but he also doesn't get hit as hard. It's a trade off.
Why he doesn't: Durability. His injuries are a concern. He's not big and he's on the other side of 30 now.
Why he fits: He has the stuff to be a mid-rotation guy and he throws strikes (2.10 walk rate) while also missing bats (8..22 K rate in his last season.
Why he doesn't: He's coming off of TJ surgery and the Cubs aren't the only shrewd office that sees a potential bargain. That coud drive the price up beyond what they're comfortable with considering his major injury last season.
Why he fits: Yet another guy who can strike guys out despite less than top shelf stuff (8.76/9 IP last year). His control improved, though I'd consider it just average.
Why he doesn't: Durability. Villanueva has split time between the pen and the rotation. Career high in starts with 16 last year. That concern, however, should make him cheaper than his results would otherwise attract on an open market.
Why he fits: Only lefty. Best stuff on this list. A mid 90s fastball and a nasty slider make him tough to hit when he commands his pitches.
Why he doesn't: Has a recent injury history and of all the pitchers on his list, he has the least control, walking 5 batters per 9 innings the last two years. I think he needs to throw his fastball more and maybe the Cubs work with Marmol in that area would help with Liriano too.
Why he fits: Throws strikes and a good track record in the KBO. One of their best pitchers. Cubs have scouted well in Korea.
Why he doesn't: Stuff is average at best and the question is whether it would play against MLB hitters. Keith Law believes he's a reliever here though if the Cubs signed him, he'd definitely get a crack at the rotation
Scott Feldman: Feldman throws strikes and generates his share of ground balls. Had some bad luck last season with BABIP and a low strand rate. FIP was a respectable 3.81. Feldman may be a guy the Cubs have an easier time signing because they can guarantee him a rotation spot.
Dallas Braden: Braden is coming back after shoulder surgery, which historically has been harder to overcome than elbow surgery. The good news is that Braden never really ever through that hard anyway. He has a good change and he throws strikes. If healthy he could contribute to the back end of a rotation. He wants an opportunity and the Cubs can offer that. He may only cost you a minor league deal.
Roy Oswalt: Wha? Oswalt a sleeper? He is these days and could probably be had on a one year deal. Despite getting knocked around, there's some reason to think there's some bad luck involved, including a ridiculous .378 BABIP and an 18.6% FB/HR rate, easily a career high. On the other side he struck out over a batter per inning while walking guys at a rate of just 1.68/9 IP. He's been finicky about where he wants to pitch, looking to pitch close to home last season, so it may be tough to get him to come to a losing team in Chicago at the end of his career.
I expect the Cubs to look into all available pitchers and at the very least, we should see two new faces in the starting rotation next season. The Haren ship may have passed and the Cubs may not land themselves a Greinke or a Sanchez this year, but though there may be some flawed pitchers in the second tier, there should be plenty of pitchers who fit their mold for them to choose from.
Filed under: 2013 Offseason Series