Haren deal falls through. So who's next on Cubs SP shopping list?

Haren deal falls through.  So who's next on Cubs SP shopping list?
Shawn Marcum

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...

Joe Blanton

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?

Shawn Marcum

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.

Scott Baker

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.

Carlos Villanueva

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.

Francisco Liriano

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.

Hyun-Jin Ryu

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


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  • I'd consider SPs in this order; Sanchez, Dempster, McCarthy, Jackson, Oswalt, Blanton and Villanueva.

  • I think that's pretty fair, but I also think Cubs more likely to get guys toward the end of that list.

  • Assuming their medicals check out, I think it makes sense to go fairly aggressively( in terms of annual $ rather than yrs) after Marcum and Liriano. Given their respective histories of success in the AL, their trade mkts will be wider if they're performing we'll this upcoming season. Secondly, depending on how the team is progressing, they might fit into the team's plans over the next couple of yrs. Liriano, in particular, retains some intriguing upside; hopefully, he enjoyed his brief stay in Chicago. For me, the medical questions are more significant with Marcum. All in all, we have tons of payroll flexibility, both short and long terms, and we need to start investing in SP, as our potential system help is still VERY far away.

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    I agree with that philosophy. The Cubs will have payroll space the next two seasons and if they get a couple of guys with a little youth and upside, they can flip that for long term assets. Money shouldn't be the issue so much as years.

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    With that list 100 losses is probably within reach once again next year.

    You would think they almost HAVE to go with a college pitcher at #2 come June.

    I get a feeling that less and less impact players are going to be hitting free agency during their prime years now that teams are extending guys younger by buying out the remaining ar

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    In reply to DGP10:

    Sorry, hit comment too soon. buying out the remaing arb years and also controlling them through their first couple years of being free agent eligible.

    Because of the massive media contracts that clubs are signing now, it will increase payroll flexibility, and in the even a prized free agent hits the market, it will be a bidding frenzy.

    The Cubs really have no choice but to build through the draft/waivers/Rule 5 and hope to strike gold.

    They have done a fantastic job in adding some impact position players to the system, and it really seems the biggest hurdle is ahead....adding impact arms that are sorely lacking.

  • In reply to DGP10:

    I found it interesting that nearly half our poll respondents wanted Appel, but after that it was split between the two other college arms and a high school OF'er. As much as the Cubs need pitching, I'm a BPA guy all the way and I don't think the Cubs should waver from that unless it's reasonably close.

    I think you are right about less impact players hitting free agency over the next few years. I'm sure it will cycle again as the lower supply of FAs will cause them to get overpaid, making more players feel like they should test the market.

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    I think they should invite Oswalt for a tour of Chicago, including a boat ride on Lake Michigan, then push him overboard.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    Haha! I'll have to give you that. He's not the most likeable guy in the world.

  • i think we need to be careful with who we sign from a health standpoint, we cant trade these guys if they get hurt so i think that we should pass on liriano unless we get a really good deal.
    i like villanueva and feldman and i think that the cubs should really look into baker and marcums medicals, if we have to skip them for one start every 6 weeks to keep them healthy id be okay with that. i also still would really like to see haren in a cubs uniform, i think he'd succeed in the nl.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    I was really excited about Haren too but now I'm wondering why the Cubs backed off, the Red Sox didn't offer anything big, and why the Angels didn't pick up the option. He appears to have very limited value to teams.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    keith law has him as his #7 free agent, i dont know if im that high on him, but hes got name value, he'd be moving back to the national league, and if we need to be patient we can allow him to miss a start or 2. the thing is, when healthy he has the upside of #2 and hes only 32 so a great first half with a sub 3 era isnt out of the question at all. do i think it will happen, not really, but the potential is there.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    If healthy I think that's about right, but I'm not sure how much info Law would have on his med records, if anything at all.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    If it was indeed the medical reports, and I believe it was, that caused the Cubs to pull out of the Haren deal. It would be foolish for them to put much thought in signing him this off season. Regardless of whether Law has him ranked so highly.

    I really like the idea of looking into Liriano, not just because of his potential and his stuff, but being a lefty would really bring more balance to the rotation.

    John, besides the free agent market, are there a few arms you think the Cubs would target via trade?

  • In reply to supercapo:

    That's true unless he comes dirt cheap or incentive laden, but don't know why he'd come to Chicago then.

    I don't expect much on the trade market for the Cubs. If they do, I expect them to go after reclamation projects and/or guys who are in a roster crunch, much like Volstad was last year.

  • Anybody but Dempster. Short term contracts only.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Agreed. I think Dempster is looking for a 3 year deal and I think he'll get it. That would rule out the Cubs.

  • John,combining your preferences and presumed likelihood, who are your top 4 candidates for SP, in the marketplace ?

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    I want more pitchers who throw strikes, but yet have good enough stuff to miss bats. Along those lines, I'd go Baker, Marcum, Villanueva, and Blanton. But I'm also really, really intrigued by Liriano. If he can regain the control he had before his injury, he's a potential bargain and still young enough to have significant value. Ryu is a wildcard whom I don't know enough about to make a strong judgment as to whether he can start here.

    Of the sleepers, I like Feldman. He's probably a 5th starter but that works and he'll be cheap.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I actually always saw Feldman as a setup guy whose value lies there. We could still sign him, though, since we could use one veteran presence in the pen, especially with trying to trade Marmol.

  • In reply to Lou Sofianos:

    He does perform better as a reliever and that flexibility could come in handy if say, Vizcaino, Cabrera or another pitcher is ready to come up midseason. Try him as a starter and see how he does in a weaker league and out of that bandbox in TX. If he handles it, you've got yourself a bargain, if not, move him to the pen.

  • I think the Cubs end up signing two FA starers: one of the "healthy" FA's and one with some injury concern/reclamation project.

    From the healthy list, I like Jackson, Liriano, Blanton and Marcum...but I think that is the reverse order of likelihood.

    From the reclamation list I like McCarthy, Baker, and Braden...though I think all of those are unlikely.

    And I still think they acquire another arm via trade. Just my $.02 which likely means none of those things happen.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    My gut is with Baker and Feldman. One upside play, one value guy who'll give you innings. Maybe we should have a contest. Who can pick the two SPs the Cubs will sign this offseason...

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Also see a scenario where they hedge their bets with Villanueva and take the chance he can pitch a whole season. The cubs will have guys like Rusin, Raley, Struck, Vizcaino, and/or possibly Jokisch ready to pitch in the bigs by midseason, so if he can't make it, they can always go in that direction. Considering the Cubs may trade an arm or two again at the deadline, they may do that anyway.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I like the contest idea, John. I also believe that the Cubs will add at least 2 SPs for next season's rotation, either through free agency or trade.

  • I'll need some sort of prize...not sure what. I've got Kane County season tickets, maybe can give one or a pair away.

  • I like Baker but I think there is going to be wide demand for his services, given the fact that he's had surgery and has a very attractive K/BB profile.

    Blanton is interesting because he's pretty maligned by the saber crowd but still seems to add value, somehow. If nothing else , he grinds out innings and , after watching the last couple of seasons, that's a valuable thing for a team like the Cubs.

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    Some heavy hitters in on Baker, so you could be right there.

  • Doubt the FO will be pursuing those multi-year guys like Lohse, Sanchez, and Greinke. Of the remaining guys I think I like Baker best. Good command, looks like swing and miss stuff, hopefully he's healthy this year. He doesn't seem that old (31) where you're only looking to sign him in hopes of dealing him. Of course no one's untouchable, but at what point do we stop signing guys just to deal them at the deadline?

    As for that second guy, I think I'd go for Villanueva, but as you stated you wonder if he can give us the innings since he's never started more than 16 games. Gotta love that K/9 though (swstr% - 10.1). He's also another guy young enough (28) that we can still retain him for a few more years.

    As for Haren, it's a shame we couldn't get him, but I mean the only reason to trade for him in the first place was to recoup better value at the deadline (given his age, already 32). If his back doesn't hold up and he repeats with a 4.00 era then I doubt we're recouping much of anything.

  • In reply to Furiousjeff:

    Villanueva is growing on me too and the age is a big factor. You could sign him for two years and then maybe decide he's a keeper. As long as he is able to handle the workload, he seems like he'd continue to improve as he ages since he doesn't rely on overpowering stuff anyway. The only other worry I'd have is some old command issues resurfacing. There's enough concern there that I think he'd take a two year deal for something along the lines that Maholm signed for.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    The problem with Villanueva is that even if if he pitches well, he's not going to bring anything at the deadline because people don't believe he can hold up over a full season yet. The Cubs would have to sign him with the idea of keeping him because the return he would net probably isn't worth the money they'd have to invest.

  • Seems like Liriano if he can keep the BB/9 rates around 3 he could be huge. Stuff is still nasty (93.3 avg Fb), but how much of a miracle worker is Bosio??

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    In reply to Furiousjeff:

    Bosio will never be confused w Dave Duncan

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    Beg to differ. Cf. the unexpected success of Samardzjia and the reemergence of Marmol as the direct result of Bosio's coaching.

  • In reply to Furiousjeff:

    That's what's tempting about Liriano. I think the Cubs should try to get him to throw more FBs. Not only will it set up his slider and change better but it may help keep him healthy.

  • On the subject of possible trades, what do people think of Porcello? Is he gonna get moved? Would we be interested? What would it cost-Barney+?

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    Now he's a guy they've shown interest in in the past. I'd trade Barney for him. I think that's a pretty even deal.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    We'll have to see where Keppinger signs, though. It could with the Tigers to play 2b.

  • In reply to Lou Sofianos:

    They may also choose to re-sign Omar Infante.

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    In reply to Carl9730:

    Given this thought myself. Porcello would better option than Baker/Villaneuva depending on trade cost.

  • You have to figure they'd be willing to move him, particularly if they were to re-up Sanchez. Barney would probably be attractive for the sole reason that upgrading their defense, along with acquiring a closer, are their top two priorities this offseason.
    Porcello would be exactly the type of player they'd be looking to acquire.

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    I like that idea. We brought him up last offseason right here on this site and it seems to me he should still be available.

  • I agree with you John on Baker and Feldman as the guys the Cubs are looking at. Jackson is a tease, he'll show you flashes and that's it , McCarthy is not leaving Oakland IMO. Blanton is an innings eater but that's all he is at this point, not much else.

  • What about CARLOS ZAMBRANO ?

    I heard he found Religion !

    But his fast ball is still looking for the strike zone.

    ha ha ha ha ha

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Reading through all these good post...and then this one.

  • I get that the Cubs would like to pick up SP on a 1 or 2 year deal. But I don't think that rules them out of a A Sanchez if it takes 3 or even 4 year deals, as they could always trade him if he ends being pushed out by the rotation getting better, younger players. As long as the contract is not back-loaded, ala JH, teams will always need pitching. The Cubs have the payroll flexibility to pay a larger signing bonus and front load the contract if that is what it takes to make their offer stand out to the player. Now, I don't think they have a good shot at Sanchez, due to his good fortune of being traded to the Tigers and pitching in the postseason, but up to 4 years is still ok.

  • In reply to Clark n Addison:

    There are always cases where you'd be willing to go an extra year or two if it's the right fit. I'd consider going 3 years on Sanchez, maybe 4, but, as you say, given how much in demand he seems to be right now, how likely would it be that he'd choose the Cubs given their rebuilding status? They may have to significantly overpay, but then that reduces his trade value unless the Cubs eat the deal later. I think if you sign Sanchez, it almost has to be with the intention of keeping him. I wouldn't rule it out and he's actually my favorite pitcher on this list, so I'd love to have him, but yeah, it might be a long shot.

  • The biggest benefit of signing with the Cubs on a two year deal is that if you are pitching well you're going to get traded to a team contending for the playoffs... you have a better then good chance that you're going to see playoffs.

  • He wouldn't be option A, B, or C, but I wonder if they might take a flyer on offering a guy like Chien-Ming Wang either a veteran's minimum deal or a minor league deal. You obviously hope for the minor league option, but a vet min with incentive 1 year deal on a gamble like Wang isn't a bad idea.

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    In reply to toonsterwu:

    I like this move as well, but I think Wang is done. I hope I am wrong and we grab him

    He won me a fantasy championship w that monster 19 win season, and I have always had a place for him since.

  • In reply to toonsterwu:

    They need a guy like Wang for depth , due to the fact that we have nobody from AAA to fill in the event of injury.

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    A healthy Wang might be hard to beat.

  • Speculating that Angels may be wary of not landing Greinke, so perhaps are paving the way to get Garza as a fallback.

  • They should consider giving Edwin Jackson his first three-year deal. He's consistent, relatively young and would make a decent 3 or 4 starter on any team. And why not throw a few mil at Dice-K to see if jumping leagues would make him viable? His downside is no worse than Germano.

  • In reply to h vaughn:

    I'm with h vaughn on this one. Given how weak overall the FA class is for pitching and the Cubs level of resources, why not consider giving Jackson a 3 year deal (so long as it does not contain a NTC)? You seemed to dismiss it pretty quickly above, will you just go a little deeper into your thinking there?

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