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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