Happy New Year! January may bring some potential SP bargains to Cubs

Hoping everyone had a fun and safe New Year's Even to close out 2013 and I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year.  It's hard to believe that soon we'll be starting our 4th year at Cubs Den.

January will be the start of some new things here on the blog.  We'll have a pre-season prospect list coming shortly and plans are being made for a podcast.  It should also be an interesting time for the Cubs.  We will learn the fate of Masahiro Tanaka and one way or another, it will impact the Cubs plans for the rest of the offseason.

It could mean teams that lose out on Tanaka will come calling on Cubs RHP Jeff Samardzija, but the Cubs have made it clear that they value their ace highly.  They prefer to re-sign him but even if they can't, a team will have to offer significant surplus value to pry him loose.

More likely, the Cubs could seek value with remaining free agents or perhaps make a minor deal to make the roster pieces fit together better.  They could still use a starting pitcher, especially if they don't sign Tanaka.   The Cubs have their top 3 spots accounted for in Samardzija, Travis Wood, and Edwin Jackson.  Jake Arrieta will likely get one of the 2 remaining spots and the 5th spot appears to be wide open.  Chris Rusin could be the favorite there but the Cubs could turn to veteran Carlos Villanueva to start the season.   Alberto Cabrera, Brett Marshall, and perhaps Justin Grimm could be in the mix as well, though the Cubs have indicated that Grimm may be better out of the pen.

There ares still quite a few starting pitchers, led by Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Matt Garza, but the Cubs are not likely to pursue any of them seriously.  Two of them will cost a compensation pick and there is no indication on either side that Garza and Cubs will reunite. Even without those pitchers, there are still some serviceable free agents available if the Cubs choose to go that route. There are some interesting names out there still.

  • A.J. Burnett was thought to be looking only at the Pirates or retirement but has recently sent out signals that he'd be willing to sign a one year deal somewhere else.  It's possible, however, that this could be just a way of leveraging the Pirates.
  • Bronson Arroyo is coming off a strong season and will be among the most heavily pursued of the available starters.   He is a pitcher whom the front office is already familiar.
  • Jason Hammel had an offseason last year and should bounce back and be a respectable 4th or 5th starter.  The off year may make him willing to sign a team friendly deal.
  • The club could look to retain Scott Baker, who finished the season strong last year despite not fully regaining his previous velocity.
  • The Cubs showed early interest in Suk-Min Yoon but there are questions as to whether he has the stamina to remain a starter and some may see his recent shoulder soreness as a risk.
  • Lefty Paul Maholm is available again but it's uncertain whether he'd return to a team that signed him and then traded him that very season.  He may be looking for more stability at this point in his career.
  • The Cubs pursued LHP Chris Capuano a couple years back and he is available again this year after the Dodgers declined his option.
  • Another available lefty is 29 year old John Lannan, who has popped up in trade rumors involving the Cubs in the past.  He had a knee issue at the end of the year but if healthy he could be a bargain pick up.
  • Johan Santana is being pursued most heavily by the Twins but reportedly has offers from other teams as well, with one of them being the Yankees.  Santana had a shoulder issue last season, however.  Jeff Niemann also had shoulder issues and isn't expected to be ready to start the season.
  • Former Cub Jerome Williams is looking for a starting opportunity somewhere after having some moderate success as a swing man with the Angels.

There are some pitchers with a history of success but none of them are more than bottom of the rotation innings eaters at this point.  Those options include veteran RHPs Freddy Garcia and Aaron Harang, plus lefty Jeff Francis, who had decent peripherals but that may not mean much since he never seems to pitch up to them.  Joe Saunders and Barry Zito are available as well.

January tends to be a good time to hunt for bargains.  Right now there are a lot of starting pitchers and not a whole lot of spots available for them to land.  The Cubs may have a spot or two available depending on what happens in the next 3 weeks.

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  • There looks to be several options for the Cubs. Sniffing .500 this year would show improvement and hopefully encourage us fans to continue backing the rebuild process. Making wise choices in terms of SP will go a long way towards that and this front office, for the most part, has made wise choices.

  • In reply to Bama Ben:

    I think even if they don't get Tanaka, then I'd like to see them get one or two of these SPs. I think they can find a solid contributor for the back of the rotation.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    But John, isn't there a limit to how many " back of the rotation" SPs a team can carry?

  • In reply to Hey Hey:

    That all depends on the type of contract they sign.

  • In reply to Bama Ben:

    The only thing the Cubs will be sniffing this year is dick.

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    In reply to BarryB:

    Take the trolling somewhere else.

  • John , I was going back and forth with some people on Grimm. I know he struggled in his brief audition as a SP bu he seems to have the type of well-rounded skill set to make him an attractive 4-5. Anything in particular that screams pen for him. He seems like a much better option than Rusin or Villanueva , for sure, if not Cabrera.

    As far as remaining SPs, I'd prefer Hammel or Capuano. Hammel isn't far removed from a pretty good yr in a tough division. Stuff has always been pretty solid. Capuano seems like a poor man's Moyer-just keeps in ticking. Hammel with a bit more near-term upside.

  • Happy New Year Everyone! There certainly are some intriguing options out there. I'd hate to have a rotation with more than one 'innings eater'. Even though Jackson has fairly good stuff, he's an innings eater in my eyes. I have little faith in him having a true impact on the team. There are a couple of guys who have sign-&-flip potential who intrigue me such as Hammel and Baker. Johan intrigues me as well. I think i'd just as soon see Rusin/Marshall/Hendricks (eventually) have those innings instead of a Capuano or a Jerome Williams. If you're going to pay a guy a little bit to come in and flirt with a 5 ERA, why not let your own young guys flirt for free? I know ERA isn't the be all-end all but we have a couple young guys who'll keep it around the 4-4.5 area if they get the innings.

  • In reply to Ben20:

    Happy New Year Ben.

    Hendricks will start in Iowa but he may be a factor by midseason. His presence and the presence of several pitching prospects in AA tells me the Cubs should be flexible with their SP additions. Except for Tanaka, I don't think that they need to sign anyone who is demanding more than a year or two.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Especially if they're a 4 or 5 type pitcher. I feel pretty confident that in 2 years we'll have a couple of guys coming through the system that are at least that.

  • In reply to TulaneCubs:

    Yes. And that may not seem like a big deal, but if you can fill those spots cheaply for 6 years, that's good value and money you can spend elsewhere.

  • In reply to Ben20:

    Agreed Ben. I don't see many of these guys on the list here as having much potential added value over Rusin/Marshall/Beeler/Hendricks who you already have on staff.

    If the Cubs don't sign anybody else - although I hope they manage a successful campaign for Tanaka - I think they are not improved by adding anybody from the outside yet (other than maybe Baker) and should stay off the market UNLESS they view signing one of these guys to a flippable contract as a viable option.

  • Three weeks from tomorrow, or more likely (ideally) for the Cubs, by the Convention Weekend, we will know if Tanaka is Chicago bound. I think that would be a great piece of showmanship to wheel Tanaka out for the Cubs Convention. In reality, however, I think Tanaka's services will be coming down to the last minute on the 24th. From that point to spring training, it should be exciting like a game of musical chairs. Unfortunately, like you said, there will not be many open spots. Baker, I find appealing as a leader for a couple of years, but Hammel could be useful, too. But if the Cubs really wanted to shore up their staff, Edwin Jackson needs to find a new home but a bucket of balls doesn't buy much these days.

  • In reply to historyrat:

    I think Jackson will be better next season. He didn't pitch all that well but he had some bad luck as well. There's no reason for him not to be a .guy who will keep you in games and put up an ERA in the high 3s or low 4s again. I think he'll be the Edwin Jackson we saw in previous seasons. That isn't particularly special but it is useful.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    He is durable, I will give you that. I just find his constant nibbling frustrating to watch when he has such filthy stuff.

  • In reply to historyrat:

    Me, too. Throw strikes and if they beat you they beat you but don't beat yourself.

  • In reply to historyrat:

    A guy with as good an arsenal of pitches as Jackson should just throw, and mix his pitches up well,.... and let the other guys beat him if they can.

    He does just seem to not have the confidence to consistently do so. Too tentative much of the time.

  • In reply to historyrat:

    Agreed. He needs to trust his stuff and go right after hitters.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    It would also be nice if he didn't slow every game down to a crawl.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    He should be better, but then again; Wood may regress a bit so as our 3 & 4 SP's, it's pretty much a wash. The real problem and the reason we need Tanaka, is they are slated as our #2 & #3 SP's.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I do think Wood will regress a little, but I see him as a Mark Buehrle type in the sense that I think he will out pitch his peripherals often.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Ya, I like that comparison. He induced a lot of weak contact and infield pop ups. I also expect his walks to drop and his strikeouts to go up a tad.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John that is a perfect example of what I hope Wood could be.

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    Happy New Year to everyone in the Den! Looking forward to the upcoming season.

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Happy New Year Bobby!

  • People still having problems with posts getting lost in cyberspace?

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    In reply to Carl9730:

    you'll find those do turn up eventually

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    In reply to Carl9730:

    Sometimes they take an hour or so before they appear.

  • If they do sign any bargain SP's who on the 40-man roster can
    they trade.

  • John, as usual, great thought inspiring article.

    One blogger wrote maybe we would be sniffing .500. I just can't see it.., unless we sign Tanaka and keep JS. When we go against another team's #1,2 or 3 pitchers, we gotta make it a battle. So ofter we were down by 3 runs by the 5th inning and with that weak OFFENSIVE LINEUP, I fear the same old, same old for this year.

    Signing Tanaka would replace a lot of skepticism with optimism. We've got 2 seasons of fight the first half of the season and be ready to bail by getting rid of anyone decent. Those empty seats could start accumulating in July. Tanaka AND JS, not either or neither!

  • Kind of an uninspiring list, but the Cubs FO has proven they can find value at the back of the rotation. Assuming that Burnett, Arroyo, and Santana probably want to go to contenders, I think Hammel is the only option that really appeals to me. Beyond that, I'd rather see what Cabrera can do.

    Whoever the Cubs target, they can offer a rotation spot and a chance to rebuild value, which seems like it should make the Cubs a relatively attractive destination for someone on this list.

    And Happy New Year everyone!

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    I still say Wada - is the favorite for the 5th spot as of today
    with no further moves - Baltimore thought enough of him
    to give him $8 Million - & he had a successful career in Japan.

  • In reply to deport soriano com:

    I like Wada as well plus two starting LH pitchers in the rotation would be nice. I see him rebounding nicely this year just not sure who he replaces unless a trade is made.

  • In reply to Rbirby:

    I'm not as big on Wada and the stuff I get on him from scouts ranges from lukewarm on down, including one who doesn't think his stuff is even MLB quality. To top it off, his command is nothing special. There's a reason he hasn't made the majors yet and is only able to get a minor league deal. I think if he makes it to the bigs, it will be as a middle relief type. I don't think he has the goods to even be a 5th starter.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Well that's a buzz kill. Looked like he was at full strength at aaa the last few months last year and at the price the Orioles paid originally for him figured he would be a better 5th option than Rusin.

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    In reply to Rbirby:

    I guess - IF Healthy - belongs in that conversation.

  • Happy New Year, John! The Den has become a big part of every day for me, so once again, thanks for all you do!

  • Chris Capuano might be an interesting pickup,.... but he's always seemed to have issues with giving up HRs, and that might not be the best fit for Wrigley. LHP with some history of success are rarely a bad signing, but not sure he represents an improvement over just going with Rusin for the price he might cost relative to Rusin.

    Always liked John Lannan back when he was one of the better pitchers on some terrible Nationals teams,... and he's still only 29. He might be an interesting flier pickup. Has never been much of a strikeout guy, but would probably do well in Wrigley with a solid defense behind him,... IF he's heatlhy enough to play consistently.

    Not sure I would touch many of the others on this listing,.... other than Baker if he is willing to cut the Cubs a team-friendly contract deal.

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    happy new year, everyone. Rabbit-rabbit-rabbit.

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    Happy New Year all my Cub's Den Friends. I would still like to see the Cubs resign Baker. Even with his lack of speed, I think he is a pitcher not a thrower and would be very helpful to the staff. 3 plus weeks seems like an eternity to wait for Tanaka, but wait, I am a Cub fan and 3 weeks seems easier than next year, right? ;)

  • In reply to Hal McCarty:

    I've thought all along that they will eventually re-sign Baker and I still do.

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    In reply to GAHillbilly:

    I think they will sign Baker and one of the others from the list... Theo seems to make sure there are 6 or 7 pitchers in contention for the rotation spots with the extra pitchers beefing up our relief core

  • if the cubs sign tanaka then that could signal the next step in the rebuild. obviously if that happens than it doesnt make sense to sign any of these guys on this list to anything but a minor league deal (which the vast majority would turn down).

    however if they dont im hoping that whoever they sign can be flipped at the deadline because i forecast this year being a lot similar to the last two. itd be nice to get maholm back and have two lefties in the rotation, but like john said im sure hed like some stability at this point in his career.

  • Of the many internal, back-end candidates, Hendricks & Grimm seem to possess the most upside. Grimm, in particular, doesn't seem to be garnering much attention-probably based on rough audition as a SP last yr. He was rated pretty highly, by both Fangraphs & BP , headed into last yr. His stuff and makeup both seem to profile well for an extended audition in rotation.

    With regard to Hendricks, I just think he'll continue to surprise people. With him, the continued respectable K numbers give me the most hope- along with the stellar results. John , is he really as much of a strict finesse guy, as we've been led to believe? I know he has the killer change. I keep thinking/hoping pre-injuries Marcum-with usual disclaimer about inappropriateness of comps.

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    I don't like to use finesse that much but for me Hendricks is a guy that doesn't have that one go-to out pitch to be more than a #4 or #5. The change-up is good, but I don't think that qualifies as a true out-pitch. The FB is fringe average at best and he's developed a cutter, which he uses more as a pitch to contact offering when he falls behind in the count. I think if he turns out to be a consistent #5 for the next 6 years then I will say the Dempster deal was a win for them. If he ends up a #4 then I'd call it a steal.

  • Thanks again John for producing an excellent site of Cubs information going on 4 years. I am particularly looking forward to the preseason prospect list. And for SP pitchers, I would like an order of Tanaka please with a side of Scott Baker.

  • In reply to John57:

    Depends on the cost

  • In reply to John57:

    Haha! You're welcome and thanks for the kind words. I'd be thrilled with Tanaka and Baker. Then again, I'd be thrilled with Tanaka and just about anybody.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I really think Scott Baker would help the pitching staff tremendously in providing veteran leadership. Assuming we get Tanaka, he still would be learning the ropes in the majors even though he has pitched well for 7 years. Shark, Wood, Arrieta and Jackson also haven't figured out how to be pitchers rather than throwers for very long if at all. We need that vet to get them to see the light.

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    Happy New Year!
    John, what's your gut tell you about Dallas Beeler? I saw a BBA feature on him and they sounded fairly high on his potential to be an MLB back-end starter and he's really come on strong over the last year or so.
    The Cubs need a surprise or two in '14 to compete and it would be cool to see an under-the-radar guy like Beeler have an impact.

  • In reply to AdolphoPhillips67:

    Happy New Year! My gut says he can be a #4 or #5 starter. I don't think the stuff is good enough to be a #3 unless he can get better, sharper movement with his slider and make it more of a swing and miss pitch. I do think he'll force a lot of weak groundballs and if he has a good infield defense behind him, he'll have some very strong, efficient games and eat up some innings at the bottom of the rotation. If not, then he may be able to gain a tick or two on the FB out of the bullpen and perhaps have some 7th or 8th inning potential. I'm probably higher on Beeler than most, though.

  • Looking forward to another year of reading the best Sports Blog out there!

    Let me pull on the Edwin Jackson thread a little more. He was lights out in July with a 3-1 record and an ERA of 1.83. The other five months he was probably the worst SP in the league:
    April 0-4, 6.27 ERA
    May 1-3, 5.85
    June 3-3, 5.19
    Aug 0-3, 5.97
    Sept 1-4, 5.47

    Any theories on what he was doing differently in July?

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    Looks to me like he just threw more strikes and pitched to contact more during that stretch. The bullpen looks like it was pretty solid through much of that stretch, so maybe that helped him be a bit more confident in his approach?

  • I think the ones with options need to be in the pen or Iowa for depth (Rusin, Grimm, Hendricks, etc)... I like Hammel and Baker as 1yr fliers for the 5th spot. Villanueva needs to be left in his swing man role. Part of me thinks that Cabrera should be the 5th starter as he has the most upside of the bunch and could end up as a legit #3 on a championship caliber squad if he can command that wicked stuff.

    Tanaka is really the key. That and Jeff taking that next step (whether he is re-signed or traded) will do more for our timeline than anything else.

  • Can't wait to read tomorrow's column "January May Bring Some Potential Offense Bargains to Cubs"!

    Thinking about starting next year with the same lineup that finished last year (less our best hitter Navarro) sure doesn't give me the warm fuzzies. September saw us go 8-18 and we ended the year with the worst BA and fewest runs scored among all real MLB teams. So, dig deep for tomorrow's column, John!

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    Happy new years, Guys.

    To be honest, I'd rather take my chances with Cabrera, Grimm, or even future LOOGY Chris Rusin for that 5th spot. The rotation already looks solid. When a guy capable of being a #1-2 like Jake Arrieta is your 4th starter you're doing alright.

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    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    409 Career Innings - in MLB
    5.23 ERA, 1.43 WHIP
    not a guarantee by any means
    hasnt been able to put it together

    hopefully he does.

  • In reply to deport soriano com:

    Arrieta did pretty well once he got to the Cubs. Smaller sample size of course but very encouraging. You can see why Marcel likes him.

    51.2 innings, 4 wins 2 losses
    3.66 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, .185 ave

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I'm pretty much in this boat. Eventually, you have to figure out if guys that currently project as #4/#5 can actually do it. Seeing as though I think this year is basically a punt, it seems like a good time to see if any of those 3 can cut it. I know people like Cabrera and Grimm as guys out of the pen, but Grimm was at one time projected as a mid-rotation guy. Have to see if he can get there before you stuff him in the pen.

  • I think the remaining bargain bin of arms

  • Is much more appealing than the bats. It underscores value of big 4. I'd rather see what we have with the likes of Olt and Lake, even Watkins, rather than trying to strike lightning in a bottle with known retreads.

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    I like the idea of starting Villanueva in the rotation with an eye to trading him at the deadline if he performs well, especially with the 4-5 starter depth we've built up near the major league level.

    I do feel bad for Rusin, though. It's a case where his left-handedness works against him, since the Cubs have a lot of similar caliber starting pitchers and could use another lefty in the bullpen especially if James Russell really is still on the trade block.

  • Wow John, I didn't realize Cubs Den is starting just their 4th year. That means I've probably been reading this blog since pretty close to its inception. Cubs Den has quite the following for just starting its fourth year. That says a lot about all your great work. Greatly looking forward to the Podcast. Happy New Year!

  • Off that list are there any guys who get a 3 year deal? 2 years?

  • In reply to Oneear:

    Only if under 32 yr and no history of arm trouble

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    The spam filter seems to have gone a little crazy today.

  • John. Ty for the Blog. I appreciate your efforts and the intriguing Topics and Prospect updates. You definitely keep it fresh. I'm liking the thought of Uggla coming over. Tanaka would be the HR. Taking a run at Masterson would be exciting if we could put together a nice trade proposal that could peak their interest.

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    Is it to early to say "wait til next year?"

  • In reply to Nick Johnson:


  • In reply to John57:

    you have a way of words

  • In reply to kingpro98:


  • In reply to Nick Johnson:

    2014 or 2015?

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I thought it was 2016 now?

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    If they sign any of those guys, I hope it's just to compete for a rotation spot in spring (as opposed to just being handed one from the get-go). I'd love to see Cabrera, Hendricks, Grimm, and even Rusin given every chance to win that job. If we're going to be bad for another year, there's no sense in blocking young players who can play or relegating them to the 'pen.

  • Lannan's a good idea if his knee ain't knockin'.

  • Happy New Year, John, the rest of the writing staff, and all the readers here. Thanks for making 2013 a year of excellent, informative reading. Keep up the great work.

  • Burnett and Maholm are the only 2 names that really intrigue me. Hammel gives up too many baserunners, and the rest are all recovering from arm surgeries.

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