Looking ahead to the Cubs 2014 Rotation

Looking ahead to the Cubs 2014 Rotation
Travis Wood

So the Cubs made some changes in July and it's going to affect the strength of the team, which has been the starting pitching.  The Cubs have pitched well without Matt Garza and Scott Feldman, so perhaps it won't be be much of a hit next year, and it may even benefit them in the long run.

But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.  Let's take a look at what the rotation will look like next season:

The Locks

  1. Jeff Samardzija, 28, RHP:  Samardzija has ace-like stuff with a fastball that averages 95 mph and a nasty splitter than can be unhittable at times. He's a bit inconsistent with his slider and his command. He's also still learning the art of pitching -- though he has come a long way in all those areas.   Samardzija still has upside and his early stint as a reliever both in the minors and majors -- plus his limited use in college gives him a lot less miles than your typical 28 year old and I think he'll have an atypical bell curve when it comes to peak years.  I believe he'll continue to pitch well into his mid 30s.  His traditional numbers don't look ace-like: 6-9 with a 3.75 ERA, but Samardzija misses bats (9.13 Ks/9 IP) and keeps the walks down at a reasonable rate (3.38 per 9 IP this year).  His xFIP is at 3.46, which ranks 27th in all of baseball.
  2. Edwin Jackson, 29, RHP:  Like Samardzija, Jackson throws hard (avg. of 93 mph) but his best seconary pitch is a hard mid 80s slider that is a genuine out pitch.  He's still young and he's athletic, so I expect him to continue to pitch well through his contract.  Jackson's traditional numbers look very pedestrian 7-11 with a 4.65 ERA, but his peripherals tell a different story.  He has similar command to Samardzija but misses less bats (7.45/9 IP).  Jackson has been hurt by an unusually low strand rate, which has adversely affected that ERA.  His FIP is a much more impressive 3.45 (31st in baseball) -- and his performance of late has begun to reflect that.
  3. Travis Wood, LHP, 26, LHP: Wood hasn't even entered his prime years and he's already showing signs of breaking out and perhaps becoming a part of the Cubs young core.  He has had the best results of any Cubs pitcher and even made the all-star team, but some regression is due.  But don't freak out -- he's not going to regress to the guy who struggled mightily in his last season with the Reds and early on with the Cubs.  He's a different pitcher now with an improved approach and better command than he had then.  His FIP is still a respectable 3.67.  Wood isn't going to miss a lot of bats.  He's throwing less 4 seamers and a lot more cutters, so he's been inducing weaker contact and he's been better at keeping the ball down this year (0.67 HRs/9IP).  Wood is an extremely athletic pitcher who helps himself with the glove and the bat.  And that athleticism will help him pitch well even as he ages.

The In-House Candidates

  • Carlos Villanueva. 32, RHP:  Villanueva is signed on for one more year and has proved himself to be a very versatile pitcher.  He's the kind of pitcher every team needs to keep things flowing smoothly through injuries.  Villanueva has 29 appearance, 13 of them starts and a 4.33 ERA that needs little dissection as it accurately protrays his performance.  He's a 5th guy if he starts and a nice, experienced option to have in-house in case of injury or if the other pitchers don't work out.  
  • Scott Baker, 31, RHP:  Many of us considered Baker a steal when the Cubs signed him but injuries have proven many of us wrong.  Baker is on his way back, now rehabbing in Daytona, and the Cubs will likely get a look in September and will then need to make a decision on whether to try and bring the impending free agent back or to go in a different direction.  When healthy, he fits the profile the Cubs like perfectly -- athletic, throws strikes, misses bats, and has excellent intangibles such as pitchability and makeup.  Assuming they can get him to stay on a team friendly, incentive laden deal, both Baker Villaneuva lessen the need for the Cubs to try and dig up a reliable veteran out of a weak free agent class.
  • Jake Arrieta, 27, RHP: Guys who are entering their prime years, have prototypical size/build (6'4", 225 lbs) can throw 97 mph FBs and 90 mph sliders tend to be just a wee bit intriguing, don't they?  The Cubs have a potential monster on their hands if they can harness all those great attributes.  Arrieta has shown flashes of dominance at AAA Iowa and looked good in his one spot start this year.
  • Chris Rusin, 26, LHP: Like Arrieta, Rusin may be something of a late bloomer.  Unlike Arrieta, he's not going to wow you with his raw stuff.  Rusin is strictly a pitch to contact, 5th starter type who throws a high 80s fastball that he can cut at times to get more movement.  He also has a good change-up that he uses to keep hitters from sitting on his fringe average fastball while also giving him a weapon vs. RH hitters.  He doesn't have an "out pitch" so he relies heavily on command, changing speeds, and locating his fastball.  He's in his prime and has had good results in 3 starts this year, but peripherals suggest he won't sustain that sub 3.00 ERA.
  • Justin Grimm, 24, RHP:  Grimm was pressed into MLB duty this year before he was ready.  Most think of him as a #4 type guy though some think he can be as high as a #3.  He has good velocity, often pitching in the 90-93 range and a big curve that he need to throw for strikes to have success.  He's had some trouble early on as MLB hitters won't swing at that curve as much as minor leaguers did, so Grimm will have to keep refining his command.  His developing change-up will be a key for him vs. LH hitters.  He'll have to learn to keep the ball down better too.   Some potential here, there's a lot to work with, and he's in the mix for next season.
  • Alberto Cabrera, 24, RHP:  Cabrera has the kind ideal build (6'4", 210 lbs) and athleticism the Cubs like, which is part of the reason they decided to try him as a starter.  He's also a rare power arm in the system, able to hit 97 mph though he gets better command and movement in the 92-94 mph range.  His slider is wipeout pitch when he commands it and his change-up is average and just good enough to keep LH hitters honest, as well as a change of pace to keep hitters off his hard primary pitches.  Cabrera was 9-3 with a 3.20 ERA (3.63 FIP) as a starter in AA Tennessee but with the sharp increase in innings, the Cubs have put him back in the bullpen for now.  He's a darkhorse candidate for the rotation next year, in part because he's out of options and also because the Cubs have invested in his conversion as a starter.  He can always move back to the bullpen, but I expect him to get a crack at a rotation spot next year.

Free Agents

Let me preface by saying that I think it's unlikely the Cubs bring Garza or Feldman back, even though, unsurprisingly, they would fit pretty well.  I also think guys like Jon Lester (who also has a club option), Josh Johnson, and Tim Lincecum will at least get qualifying offers and the Cubs won't give up a 2nd round pick for them (maybe Lester, but I can't see the Red Sox not picking up his option) -- and they certainly won't give up an unprotected 1st round pick if they continue to win and drop out of the top 10.  If these guys become FAs and don't get QOs then we can put them in the mix in a later piece.

  • Phil Hughes, 28, RHP:  Hughes is the right age but he could get expensive on this market, though he got the cold shoulder before the trade deadline from most GMs.  His peripherals aren't all that impressive and the injury history give you some pause.
  • Edinson Volquez, 30, RHP:  Could be an interesting buy low candidate.  He's still relatively young and averages 92 mph on this fastball, though that is down a tick and he has struck out batter less per 9 innings this year.  The bright side is that his walks are down too. (4.27 walks per 9 IP).  His FIP (4.01) is significantly lower than his ERA (5.56).
  • Mike Pelfrey, 30, RHP:  Pelfrey has better command and velocity similar to Volquez but his FB lacks movement and he's a classic pitch to contact guy.  Another buy low candidate, he's 5-9 with a 5.31 ERA but his FIP is a much more platable 4.17.  And you wonder if there is something the Cubs can do to add movement, perhaps try a cutter or change his grip to create more movement the way Bosio did with Cabrera.


  • Arodys Vizcaino, 22, RHP:  Probably bullpen bound for now.  The Cubs will need to gradually build up his innings.
  • Brooks Raley, 24, LHP: I think Raley's better suited for the bullpen at this point as well.
  • Kyle Hendricks, 23, RHP: Not yet on the 40 man roster and won't need to be until after the 2014 season, but another big year in AAA and he may force the Cubs hand at some point during the season.  Finesse guys work with little margin for error and that margin for error only shrinks as you move up and face more advanced, disciplined hitters.  Hendricks will have to keep refining his already very good command to sustain success.

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  • Hendricks had another solid start for Tennessee today. I expect to see him in Iowa or Wrigley before the season is over, and he's my sentimental favorite to win a job next year.

  • In reply to Jimmy Greenfield:

    I just wonder if adding him to the 40-man will be the sticking point on seeing him this year !!

  • In reply to MoneyBoy:

    Most likely. Unless he blows them away, and he hasn't. Why would they risk someone to the rule 5 draft just to get a few MLB starts from him?

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    In reply to MoneyBoy:

    It wouldn't be wise to add him to 40-man this year. There is no reason to rush him, and that would bump someone else.

  • In reply to Jimmy Greenfield:

    The roster spot is an issue and Hendricks is a one level at a time guy, so I don't think they'll rush him. Finesse guys need to keep proving themselves because at each new level, their margin of error gets even smaller. Hendricks doesn't have the stuff or go-to pitch that he can rely on to bail him out, so he's going to have to be consistently fine with his command.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Just wondering if your we're going to be at the Cubs and Dodgers game tomorrow at Wrigley? I'm a huge Cubs fan and love talking about the analysis and rebuilding standpoint of the Cubs. I'm still in high school and have a great knowledge of baseball and would love to talk some Cubs baseball with you! It would a huge honor to meet you because I love what you do and would personally love to have the same job you do someday!

  • I'm definitely not opposed to them going after another starter in free agency, but could they please maybe spend just a tiny bit of cash on the bullpen next year? I know they've blown a ton of saves, but how many additional games have they lost because of the bullpen giving up runs in the 6th, 7th, and 8th innings?

  • In reply to Ike03:

    They did spend this past offseason giving the Asian fellow who was all sorts of suck a two year deal, and they had a fair offer for Grilli on the table as well.

  • In reply to Josh Sims:

    Forgot about Grilli. Not fair to say Fujikawa sucked since he was hurt.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    Keep your eye on Lim. One scout I know liked him better than Fuji anyway. Should be ready soon.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Lim has an ultra-funky delivery that looks like it could confuse and dazzle batters....

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Yes -- and 95 mph from a sidearm delivery? That is nasty on RH hitters.

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    In reply to Ike03:

    We have alot of options there already though. Barring other deals, you have Russell, Strop, Lim, Parker, plus Cabrera and/or Villanueva, depending on what Cubs do with starters. Bowden is in the mix. Maybe Vizcaino and some others. I can see signing one guy, but that's about it.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Yeah the FO has gone on record as saying that the best bullpens are homegrown failed starters. It is very tough to buy a good pen, very unpredictable and sporadic years from relievers. Look at the Mets, I heard Sandy Alderson say preseason the Mets revamped their pen and they expected it to be a strong point, and they are terrible.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    I don't expect the Cubs to invest big in the bullpen, but there may be some guys who may fit at a reasonable price. I think they'll be somewhere between dumpster diving and Jonathan Papelpon insanity as far as what they'll spend.

  • Phil Hughes is awful. The Cubs won't be in on him.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    Awful was a strong statement, but he's not good and I don't think he's a buy low.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    Definitely not a buy low guy. I think his price will eventually surpass his value.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    I think he's overrated, but a good arm and he's young -- but in the end I think he'll be overpriced.

  • John, I don't know. Small sample size but Arrieta sure looked good the other night. I was a bit surprised by only 2Ks ... but I have to believe they have plans for him next year. Question is - does he come north in the spring or later after getting starts every 5 days in IA.
    Almost the same for Cabrera; my very uneducated guess is he spends a month or two in IA.
    I *hope* Rusin makes it, but he doesn't throw anywhere near as hard as Wood and I'm not sure his secondary pitches are that hot. In other words, he really has to be on his game to be effective
    Um, in the FWIW department!!

  • In reply to MoneyBoy:

    Cabrera is out of Options. Arrieta has to clear waivers to make it Iowa... not going to happen.

    Those two are breaking camp with the MLB club next spring.

  • In reply to MoneyBoy:

    Both guys should break camp with the Cubs and I give Arrieta the edge for a rotation spot. Would like to see both get it, actually.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Interesting how 4 out of the 5 starters could through 95 mph.

  • In reply to Mitchener:

    Power rotation!

  • In reply to MoneyBoy:

    I didn't rank those guys in any particular order, by the way. Just listed the candidates randomly.

  • Nice, solid rotation without a top end starter. Works for me.

  • In reply to Josh Sims:

    Some guys with top end stuff though. Maybe one breaks through.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Hope so, would make a world of difference to the rebuild.

  • I've been saying this in the last 3 threads, I like Cabrera & Arrieta for next year. But I do hope they have some competition ala Scott Baker, etc. I like Grimm, but ideally he could be in Iowa with Rusin for depth.

  • I think with Shark/EJ/Wood we have a good base to build off of. Hopefully Baker shows enough in the next 2 months to motivate the big guys to bring him back. Then I think Cabrera and Arrieta battle it out for the last spot with the loser going to the bp. I think the bp gets stronger and with a solid rotation, once again inconsistent offense will keep the team from really competing. I like where the team is going anyway.

  • In reply to Timmythegeek:

    That would probably be the ideal scenario for them.

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    Two years in a row, Cubs have signed a "value" starter to a short-term, pillow contract, then flipped them for young talent. Both pitchers had flaws, but both turned out great.

    I would look for us to try for a third "hit".

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I was thinking Lincecum could have been that guy. But then he went and threw a no-no and probably upped his value. I'm still not convinced he gets a qualifying offer. Someone is probably desperate enough to offer him 2 year however.

  • In reply to Ratmoss:

    They said they would give him the QO, but that could have been pre-deadline bravado.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    He isn't Cy Young anymore, but if you look at his numbers, he still misses bats. He's young, athletic, and I think a QO is a no-brainer for the Giants. I wouldnt' give him 5 years, but I think 2 years isn't a terrible idea for the right team at all.

  • I think that there are definitely a couple of interesting free agent possibilities. I think that for starters, the Cubs will have three (likely four) starters internally. I don't think that the team will fill the two open "spots" with internal options.

    Some names that I think that the Cubs could flirt with are (in no particular order):

    - Scott Kazmir. He's only 29-years-old and he's looked healthy this season. He's having a decent campaign. I could certainly envision the team signing him and then dealing him by the deadline (like Maholm and Feldman).
    - Jonathan Sanchez. He's 30-years-old and has been having another rough year. He's a high strike-out guy but he also has command issues. The talent is there, but he needs to be fixed up a bit. I think that he'll be very cheap and will be brought in on perhaps a minor league deal with a chance to win a spot in the rotation. This could end up paying dividends, and the fact that he is a lefty helps.
    - Jason Vargas. He's also 30-years-old, but he is an innings-eater. He has thrown at least 190+ innings in each of the past three seasons. Not a particularly great pitcher, but he gets the job done as a late-rotation guy. I could easily see the Cubs signing him on a 1-year; $5-$6 million dollar contract and then trading him by the deadline if he performs.
    - Paul Maholm? Anyone wanna see him back? He did a real nice job with us last season and he did really well with the Braves last season after being dealt there. Unfortunately for him, he's having a rough season, so maybe he takes a discounted deal to come back to the Cubs next year. He loved it here and would certainly be welcomed back if that was the case.
    - Josh Johnson. According to MLBTradeRumors he doesn't have any options or anything, but the site could be outdated. However, I think that if Theo/Hoyer were to make a "splash" for next season this would be it. His numbers are significantly better than they appear to look. His ERA sits at 6.08 but according to his FIP it's at 4.60 and his xFIP is at 3.54. His K/9 is at 9.36, which is the highest it has ever been. The AL East hasn't been particularly kind to him, and his HR/FB is at 18.7%, which is extremely high when compared to his other years when it sat in the single-digits. I think that many are down on him and I think that he could certainly be had for an [affordable] price. He still has all the tools necessary to dominate. I think that he would look good near the top of the rotation with Shark. He's still young enough to dominate. A move back to the NL should help his cause.

    All of these arms (except for Johnson) are lefties as well. It would be nice to have two [consistent] lefties in the rotation. None of these guys will be younger than 30 by the start of next season, but that doesn't really matter at this point for the Cubs. They are still likely going to look for a stop-gap arm (unless it's Johnson). The team will have options for next year and they will have money to spend. I think that the team certainly finds at least one arm outside the organization.

    One thing is for certain, it'll certainly be an interesting off-season.

  • In reply to Stevo:

    Kazmir maybe. Doesn't miss bats and doesn't have good enough control to pitch to contact, but does have some velo back. I'm not sure he's not best off as reliever, but maybe another year and some tinkering can help him get better results as a starter. Have always thought Sanchez was overrated and is now losing velocity and command. Bad combo at this stage.

    Josh Johnson is a flyer but scouts saying he's not the same guy anymore. Only if he's cheap and I have the feeling someone will overpay.

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    Excellent work again. by far Cubs Den has become one of my go to sources on Cubs, and especially prospect news & all around organizational news. I was actually just trying to piece together scenario's for their starting staff a couple days ago.

    I was also thinking about the relievers too. I think the Cubs could have a real bitch of a reliever corp. next season with all these emerging power arms. I still hold out hope for Rondon, & love the Strop pick up to this point.

    Do you guys plan on breaking down their bullpen options soon? I ask this because I'm curious,and I think the comment field pretty much covered all angles of this article. Sorry to stray off topic. Its kinda relevant as failed starters could be converted to BP arms, & help this team in 2014. I'm not ready to accept throwing 14' away just yet, and think the Cubs can make some noise if they make the right decisions this off season w/o straying off course of the big picture.

    Can recently acquired Corey Black factor next year? Reminds me of a RH Billy Wagner with his size/build combo, & velocity. Also if Arrieta doesn't make the rotation do you think they'll keep him on the big club as a back end BP power arm, or send him down and maybe develop an out pitch to get that K rate up, & maybe put more movement on his FB, & stay the course as a starter? I'm guessing the latter, but what say you? And lastly do you think there's any chance Rafael Dolis can make it back as a viable BP option or is he marked with the red letter of shame forever in this organization.

  • In reply to Johnny Hatelak:

    Thank Johnny. Will definitely do a bullpen piece but may require a little more research because I believe Cubs will try to bring in a veteran or two from the outside -- but not a big money guy. As for Black, I think he can move quickly as a reliever and could end up the year in AAA next season, but majors might be a bit of a stretch. And if you have an arm like Dolis, you always have a chance -- and you'll always get 2nd and 3rd chances too. He just needs to be healthy.

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    2014 Pitching options
    SP: Shark, Wood, EJ, Arietta and Baker on incentive deal
    BP: (in no order)Vizcaino, Strop, Parker, Russell, Cabrera, Villanueva (as swing), Raley
    Iowa SP: Grimm, Rusin, Hendricks, Loux,
    Iowa BP: Rondon, Zych, Rosscup
    Beyond: Yeiper Castillo, Starlin Peralta, CJ Edwards, Ivan Pinyero,
    Dillon Maples, Juan Carlos Paniagua, Pierce Johnson, Nick Blackburn, Paul Blackburn, Rob Zastryzny, Erick Leal, Corey Black, etc.

    I believe this is what "waves of pitching" starts to look like.

  • The Yankees are going to have some serious dough to spend this offseason, especially if Arod gets suspended. While some of that can obviously be used to resign guys like Kuroda, Pettite (if he doesn't retire), and perhaps Hughes, they will be very willing spend big cash on pitchers (and other players) if any make it to the free market (Pineda likely to fill one spot).

    Taking that into account, I don't really see the Cubs getting into bidding wars on imperfect options, especially if they will also cost a draft pick, when they have similar or better in house options.

  • In reply to Monkey Shines:

    I agree with that last paragraphs. If the Cubs pick up a pitcher off the FA market, he'll be more of a Feldman type than an Edwin Jackson type.

  • I really liked our starting pitching going into the season and feel OK about it for next year too. I'd do cartwheels if we can get Garza back, but I know that's highly unlikely. But either way I'm comfortable with SP for 2014.

    Bullpen is the big question mark. Who will be our closer? The FO has improved our bullpen from last year and even from the start of the season, but they're still blowing way to many games. Who are the top candidates for the last three outs next year? Looks like its gonna be a huge experiment, but hopefully someone seizes the position and breakout as the closer of the future.

  • Honestly, at this point, I almost feel like the Cubs have *too many* starters. Not TOR guys, obviously, but per Louie101's list above, we probably have 7-10 guys who are either rotation locks or young and have nothing much left to prove in the minor leagues. That's not dissimilar to this year, but I feel like the 6th - 8th starters this year were either not that young or still did have something left to prove.

    I'm all for having pitching depth because injuries and trades do happen, but I don't foresee the SP trades next year like it was this year. Is there a possibility that we actually trade away some of our young BOR starters?

  • My guess cubs trade for Price. Baez part of the deal.
    That's how I see it going anyway.

  • In reply to The Show:

    I think the front office is ready to flip the switch on the rebuild. Draft picks this year point that way. The garza and feldman return also point that way. Price is gonna cost them, but think there ready to start winning.

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    In reply to The Show:

    The price for Price would just be way to high, imo. A guy that plays every 5th day just isn't worth it to me. But he is a FA in 2016. That would be the year I feel the Cubs may be ready to make a splash in the free agency market. 2014 should be a fun year and give the FO a real opportunity to see what we got.

    Who will be our 3B of the future? Bryant? Olt? Someone else?

    Where will Baez play? 3B, SS, 2B, OF?

    Is Alcantara ready to push Barney out of town?

    Is Soler fully recovered and ready for AAA by the end of next season?

    Where is Almora's progression? Will he be ready for Wrigley by 2016?

    The Cubs' fans might be ready to start winning but this franchise is still got many questions to answer. For now I just keep chanting one of my favorite sayings:

    "Next year we will be laughing at all this."

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Price will not see free agency. Tampa will trade him to someone who will have a long extension put into place. Like the Dickey trade.

    He's 100% going to be traded. The Rays aren't going to let him walk and just get a draft pick, they are going to get a boatload for him.

    At this point I'm not for it. Pitchers who are paid huge money never seem to pan out, Zito, Sabathia, etc.

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    In reply to GoCubsGo:

    Then so be it. Let the Rays raid someone else's farm system. Do you really think giving up 2 or 3 top prospects for Price is worth it. Will Price alone be the guy that brings a WS championship to Chicago within the next 2 seasons? If not what else do we need? Spend more money in Free Agency? Then guess what.... In two years we are right back where we started.

    I'm more than fine with taking a pass on Price. The timing just isn't right, imo. I'm sure you may disagree.

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    If you took the time to read my post you'd see I agreed with you.

    Take a deep breath.

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    In reply to GoCubsGo:

    I thought I used the words, "you MAY disagree."

    Wasn't trying to argue with you. Was just expanding on your thoughts that Price will in fact be traded before he reaches free agency. No biggie.

    Thanks for the suggestion of deep breaths. Breathing is good.

  • In reply to The Show:

    I have to disagree on trading for Price.

    Yes, the Cubs have significantly upgraded their talent at the lower levels. However, the value of those prospects are lesser at those lower levels. You cant judge on stats on many of these guys are 19-21 years old meaning there is a lot of risk involved.

    I thing the FO would wait a couple years to get many of these guys up to AA at least and maximize their value and would require the Cubs to give away fewer players, but be giving away players with much more individual value.

    So the guys at Boise right now, though promising, have very little value. If in two or three years, they are at Daytona and Tennessee and performing well, they will have way more value for a trade.

    I see go cheap again this off season and let the kids develop one more go around. Get a good draft pick, re stock through IFA (though we may have little to spend there) have more $$$ to spend with the ball park revenue becoming a reality and off the Cubs go....

  • No way on Price. He costs too much and would be seen as as suprise from Theo and Jed. I doubt that they would want to spend that much on a big time starting pitcher and he already would pushing the boundary for the cubs rebuilding plan because of his age. I see them get a low cost durable pitcher and flip him in the trade deadline the next year.

  • In reply to BjtheDj:

    This front office will trade prospects eventually. They have made splashes in the past. I'm not saying gut the system, but if you don't develop a #1 trading is about the only way. Maybe Choo or Ellsbury sign also. If Olt could get close to what Rizzo did last year and the bullpen gets better. It's not Crazy to think they could compete next year with a couple moves.IMO

  • I doubt Vizcaino is in Chicago until at the earliest Aug next year. You also have Lim how's likely in the bullpen next year.

  • John, why do you think Garza is so unlikely to return? The Cubs will have plenty of money freed up coming into this offseason (my calculations have over $40 million--Marmol($10 mil), Baker ($6 mil), Feldman ($6 mil), Garza ($11 mil) + Edwin got an $8 million signing bonus) --and I could see them signing a guy to a front loaded contract similar to what they did with Jackson last off-season. Also, we have enough bats in the minors where I do not see the FO spending the $ on a position player.

    If the Cubs believe Garza has figured it out and feel he could be a real #2 than it would not shock me to see him come back. I believe the organization is desperately in need of ace, but I do not see a true #1 hitting free agency in the near future. (I think Price will eventually get paid for past performance) From my eyes the resources and the organizational need are there for a Garza reunion.

  • I'm not down with a Price deal, but there is a growing surplus of offense in the system that can (and should) be converted to additional pitching strength at some point in the next year. It's easy to get attached to your own players that come through the system, but I think the FO will be dispassionate and calculating if they see an opportunity to pry away great pitching talent.

  • I see nothing wrong in signing pitchers who are released by other
    teams. Just have to do our homework and sign the ones that'
    show some promise.

  • Do people consider Cabrera (who has less innings since the age of 18) to have this "young arm" like many claim Samardzija has?

    Samardzija pitched 200+ college innings which is right up there with typical college starters. I wouldn't say he was used in a limited fashion at all. Mark Appel for example only pitched 24 more innings than Shark over the course of their first three college seasons. (Appel pitched four college seasons and Shark pitched three so I hope no one tries to compare Appel's total time at Stanford to Shark's total time, which was a year less)

    That's why I never got this young arm thing. If we were to compare innings from age 18 (kind of hard to find high school innings for all people) onward Shark compares with a lot of guys. Do people think he didn't pitch much or at all in college because he played football? I understand a dual sport athlete would spend his baseball off-seasons playing another sport so I shot an email to an old high school buddy who pitched in college to ask about what pitchers do in the off-season. The answer was "Lots of stretching, minor work, rest, watching video and most importantly staying in shape and being in the gym" his final analysis was that off season work wouldn't have put Shark too far behind the curve at all. I know that's only one pitcher from one program so if anyone knows other colleges off season programs, feel free to share.

    That being said, what if this is his prime? What if he's destined to put up #3 numbers? I get it...his K/9IP and BB/IP are good, but his WAR and ERA are not numbers you would expect from a #2, let alone an ace. Travis Wood's first half WAR this season was higher than Shark's career WAR. Don't get me wrong, I love Shark. He's my 2nd favorite Cub, I'm not bashing him, just pointing out how I think people tend to overrate him. I love the intangibles, intensity and leadership he brings that can't be measured but what if this is it? His peak? He was the "ace" of a 100 loss team and I feel people tend to force feed us to believe that he is/will be an ace.

    There's a reason he was never a Top 50 prospect (topping out at #79 on BA). There's a reason he was switched to the bullpen and stayed there for significant time out of the minors. Not to say you need to be a top prospect or a starter right out of the minors to be an ace. I just think best case scenario for him is a good #2, not a #1.

    I understand my thoughts on Shark aren't going to be a popular opinion here but based on his past there's nothing that shows me he will be an ace. Those strikeout numbers don't do much for me in regards of projecting an ace. I'm not saying he CAN'T be an ace but nothing he has done so far has swayed me. This young arm thing is not only an excuse, it's incorrect. He's a regular 28 year old pitcher, he should be held to the same standard and not given this "well he hasn't pitched a lot he'll come into his own" pass.

    If I have time later tonight I'll post innings pitched from age 18 onward for several people to compare and put to rest this inaccuracy.

  • I could see the FO taking their annual TJ-gamble on Gavin Floyd if the price is right. I realize he'll start the season on the shelf. But could have value later in the season.

  • In reply to Denim Dan:

    I personally think they are past taking fliers on guys like that and 2014 will be a development year seeing if those arms on the cusp of being major league regulars (Rusin, Arrieta, Cabrera, Grimm) can make the leap. Signing these 1 year stopgaps just gives away starts for potential long term options in my opinion.

    These next two months will tell a lot. If those arms do well I don't think we pick anyone up. If they falter I can see signing a guy.

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    For the first time in a few years I can honestly say im very happy with the crop of starting pitchng we have. Yeah, it lacks that legit #1 but come many teams have a legit ace? 5? Maybe 10? Not worried about that. Hopefully Arrieta or Samardzija can break through and become that but if not, having five guys with #2-3 potential is just as good.

    I agree with Hoiserdaddy. I would love a power rotation with Shark, Jackson, Arrieta, and Cabrera. All are capable of having good command in spurts sand when your stuff is that good you don't have to be a surgeon out there like Rusin or Hendricks.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Thanks Marcel. IDK why everyone is automatically pushing Cabrera to the BP. Is it because they moved him there in Iowa? If thats the case, they did that due to a innings limit. They dont "save" guys for the Bullpen. You don't demote a guy back to the pen, when his conversion surpassed everyone's expectations.

    Cabrera & Arrieta could prove to be as good as Shark and E-Jax, "IF" they can command their stuff better. That's a mighty big "IF", but not out of the realm of possibilities. I think those two have the inside track (unless they struggle in ST) to finish out our rotation and that is a potentially very good power rotation.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    They're pushing him to the bullpen because there's 2 spots available in the rotation and guys like Arietta, Rusin, Grimm and potentially any free agent signing is ahead of him in the pecking order. It's based on numbers.

    He'll get a rotation spot if he earns it, but he's got to be much better than the guys more established then him.

    Did anyone actually say they moved him to the bullpen for an innings limit? A quote/link would be helpful.

  • In reply to GoCubsGo:


  • In reply to GoCubsGo:

    Yes innings limit has been well documented in many previous threads. Look it up if you care... I don't care to. Frankly, the fact that he wasn't moved to the MLB squad for a few starts is irrelevant. They need to see what Rusin can do at the MLB level as Cabrera proved his stuff is swing and miss last year, he just needs better command. I don't think anything official was ever said by the FO, but do you really think he was demoted to the BP because at 24 he went 9-3 has a 3.20 ERA and 107 K's, 39 BB ratio in 112.2 innings for Double-A Tennessee?

    Exactly how is Rusin or Grimm ahead of him in the pecking order? Actually, the fact that Cabrera is out of options and Rusin and Grimm are not, pushes them to AAA for depth if all else is even. That fact aside, Cabrera's stuff is much better than either of them two. So "IF" and I admit that is a big "IF" he can command it, he can b.e dominant.

    Bottom line is this will all be sorted out in ST. But to automatically assume that the guy with arguably the most electric power repertoire of all other internal options will automatically be pushed to the BP simply because that's where he is the last 2 months of this season is ridiculous. Your pecking order is skewed as well.

    This FO tried him at SP because thats where he has the most value. That value equation has not changed. In his 18 starts, he made them look Brilliant for doing so. They're not going to throw in the towel on his conversion and move him to the BP because he succeeded.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    The innings limit that was mentioned was speculation, it wasn't fact. It was someone's opinion.

    Sometimes a move to the bullpen isn't a demotion. He could just help the team at a better capacity there.

    How are they ahead of him? They have had success in levels that he hasn't. They aren't going to give him a rotation spot for the sake that he's out of options, the better pitcher will get it.

    Your view couldn't be any more wrong.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    By the way I never said "he will automatically be in the bullpen"

    I said I thought he'd be a bullpen arm, that doesn't mean "HE HAS ABSOLUTELY NO CHANCE TO START! NONE!"

    It just means I see him in the bullpen as opposed to rotation. It's quite simple.

  • Hey John! I was wondering if you were going to be at the Dodgers and Cubs game tomorrow. I'm a huge Cubs fan and would love to talk about the analysis and rebuilding standpoint of the Cubs. I'm still in high school and have a great love for the game and play myself. I thank you for what you do because without it I don't know where else I would get my cubs info except for bleachernation! But it would be a huge honor to meet you and talk about the Chicago Cubs with you!

  • Just read that if Jeff does not sign an extention this winter he will
    be traded.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    That was on MLBTR, parroting Paul Sullivan's snarky speculations. Don't put too much credence in that; it's just a circular rumor that won't play out till next winter at the earliest.

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    Ben Badler ‏@BenBadler 1m

    We have a signed contract: Cubs sign No. 1 international prospect Eloy Jimenez for $2.8 million. Full scouting report

    Uh, no kidding. CubsDen told us...... lol

  • Samardzija's innings pitched since gettting drafted:
    2006 - 30 IP (7 GS)
    2007 - 141.2 IP (26 GS)
    2008 - 141 IP (21 GS)
    2009 - 123.2 IP (19 GS)
    2010 - 130.2 IP (18 GS)
    2011 - 88 IP (0 GS)
    2012 - 174.2 IP (28 GS)

  • Since the age of 18, Villanueva has something like 24 more innings pitched compared to Shark and is a year older.

    Why don't people say he has a young arm?

  • In reply to GoCubsGo:

    Actually Villanueva's first year in the minors would have been Shark's senior season in high school.

    So Shark has more innings than Villanueva, Villa is also two years older. Another young arm, could that be two aces?!?

  • I keep hearing that Hendricks has to be "perfect", because he is a finesse guy. But I just don't see how he gets lumped in with Jokisch and Rusin. Hendricks' numbers the last two years have been eye-popping! The fact is, he HAS been perfect, His numbers seem to indicate pinpoint control, like a Fister or Maddux.

    I think the guy is being sold short. I have very high hopes for him.

  • In reply to HackWilson09:

    I'm a big fan of Hendricks, but I am concerned with increasing comparisons to Maddux (you are not alone). Hendricks has nowhere near that level of accuracy. His main selling point, as far as MLB-ready talent, is the ability to generate groundball contact from pitches low in the strike zone, especially when he is behind in the count or needs to unclog the bases.
    Yes, Maddux kept the ball low in the strike zone, but Maddux did a half-dozen other things to perfection that Hendricks hasn't learned yet (and may never learn). Hendricks has a better command of the corners than any pitcher I've seen in the Cubs minors this yr, but light years behind what Maddux could do.
    And, yes, Maddux wasn't finesse at this age/level, but that doesn't mean that Hendricks will evolve along the same trajectory as he ages and advances.
    I hope and pray that Hendricks becomes an established and successful MLB pitcher, because he demonstrates rare intelligence as a pitcher as observed on days when his pitches aren't doing what he wants. I've commented on this ability in previous starts. I like Hendricks more than Cabrera at Tennessee due to his pitching smarts, but believe me, we really need to see him control AAA lineups before we're sure he's capable of being anywhere near a Maddux-like pitcher.
    Lets hope he gets there!

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    I disagree with dealing for Price and paying heavily for past performance. This is something the previous regime would do. The Cubs are doing exceptionally well with grooming their own talent, reclaimation projects and keeping the cost down. I think they should continue the course. I think adding a piece to the bullpen as well as bringing in an outfielder will be the focus this off season.

  • In reply to Ray A:

    Hypothetically I wonder what the package would be for Price...(and no I'm not saying to pay it, I don't even want Price)

    Remember the outrageous packages people were throwing out for Shark? I'd like to see what they would give up for a true ace.

    You'd have to believe the Rays would want both Baez/Almora and wouldn't make any deal unless one of them (and about 3 other high profile names) are included.

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    In reply to GoCubsGo:

    I don't even want to contemplate the cost for Price. He seems to have lost the edge that made him a #1, but TB would still exact a heavy toll to move him. Let the Yankees or Dodgers overpay for a guy who looks to be on the decline...not the Cubs.

  • In reply to Ray A:

    Idk what edge you're talking about, since coming back from his injury he's been lights out. I'd say the best pitcher in baseball over the last month.

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    I'm in Afghanistan, so I haven't seen much lately. I just remember his velocity was down with his K rate, HR/9 & H/9 up.

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