Continuing from yesterday, we are looking at the Chicago Cubs, their many needs, and the numerous players who they will not sign - or even pursue - in order to fill those needs. Yes, it must be the off-season.
Starting Pitchers - an Overview
First and foremost, let me state clearly that I know, obviously, that the Ricketts family will not be throwing money into the breeze to wrangle talent for the 2013 Cubs. Even if they have money to spend, a lot of that is currently going toward defeating Obama (zing!) and can't be used for something important, like grown men winning a made up title while earning the adoration of millions of people who'd rather follow guys running around in long stockings than think about doing work.
That said, while there are a few top-notch pitchers available on the market, it appears as if there are maybe more than a dozen reclamation projects. Don't be surprised if the Cubs grab some of those guys - particularly the pitchers in San Diego, who Jed Hoyer may be familiar with. There are also a fair number of modestly successful #3 or #4 pitchers out there. Hey - they don't have big names, they won't earn top dollar, but a team with 5 of those guys would do a helluvalot better than the Cubs did in 2012. Let's take a look at the huge number of options currently available:
SP James Shields - 31 in 2013, Shields has been a reliable arm in Tampa since 2007. He will certainly command top dollar on the market, but if the Cubs have budget room for a #1 pitcher, Shields should sit close to the top of their list.
SP Zach Greinke - 29 years old, Greinke is a pitcher of immense talent who has bouts in which his success is tainted with the raunchy stench of failure. Nevertheless, he's typically very effective on the mound, throws bunches of glorious strikeouts, and carries the frightening distinction of being a more successful post season hitter than he is a post season pitcher.
SP Dan Haren - 32 years old, Haren is a 3-time All Star and has twice earned consideration for the Cy Young Award. He's coming off a below-average season, in which he went 12-13 with a 4.33 ERA. This could be the beginning of the end, but a return to the NL, where he has experienced his greatest successes, may be just what he needs.
SP Tim Hudson - Hudson is 37, and apart from 2 injury-plagued seasons ('08 and '09) has been a consistent and reliable presence in the rotation, wherever he's pitched. If the Cubs could talk him into a 2-3 year deal, he'd be a great choice. Still, 37 is also in the danger-zone age-wise, so it might be a bit of a gamble.
Stuck in the Middle
SP Jake Peavy - 32 next year and with recurring injury problems, Peavy put together a pretty respectable 2012. The reason I am most interested? He maintained good strikeout totals, an indicator that he still has the necessary stuff to start.
SP Carlos Villanueva - 29 years old, Carlos went 7-7 in 16 starts (and 38 total appearances) for Toronto, with a 4.16 ERA. He also struck out 122 in 125.1 innings of work. His age and affordability make him attractive. Nope, no joke to see here. Move along.
SP Anibal Sanchez - 29 in 2013, Sanchez was 9-13 with an ERA of 3.86 while splitting time between Miami and Detroit. He struck out 202 in 2011 and has a career 3.75 ERA.
SP Brandon McCarthy - He'll turn 30 in July. McCarthy has a career 4.02 ERA, but has had trouble staying healthy - then again, if he avoids taking line drives off his head in the future, he might be a more reliable starter! He actually may be better categorized as a reclamation project.
SP Shaun Marcum - 31 years old, Marcum missed about 10 starts in 2012. Still, if he's healthy enough to pitch in 2013, then his 3.76 career ERA and 1.22 career WHIP implies he'd be a useful starter for the Cubs.
SP Paul Maholm - This 31-in-June starter enjoyed his most successful season in 2012, while splitting time between the Cubs and Braves. Who knows if he'd want to return to a rebuilding project, but he has a career 4.26 ERA - not bad for a #4 or #5 starter.
SP Edwin Jackson - It'd be amusing if the Cubs nabbed Shields and Jackson, rejoining them with Matt Garza, assuming Garz is healthy to pitch in '13. Jackson will be 29 for the majority of next season, and he pitched well in Washington in '12, winning 10 and posting an ERA of 4.03.
SP Joe Saunders - The 32-next-year year-old lefty may be a reasonable option for the team. Saunders has a career ERA of 4.15, pitched effectively in Arizona, and has a WHIP in the mid 1.3's.
SP Tim Stauffer - A Padre, this 30-year-old starter has a career ERA of 3.94, with a WHIP of 1.32. If Hoyer decides to go with the players he knows, he may very well attempt to nab Stauffer for a reasonable price. Of course, expectations should be minimal - Stauff missed most of '12 due to issues with a tendon in his elbow.
SP Dustin Moseley - Another Padre who posted a good ERA in 2011 before missing almost all of 2012, Moseley will be 31 next year. In his last healthy season, his ERA was 3.30 and his WHIP was 1.275. Healthy being a subjective term, as he pitched in only 20 games. Moseley suffers from shoulder issues.
SP Scott Baker - Baker is a talented pitcher who missed all of 2012. I anticipate someone will invite him to Spring Training. He has a career 4.15 ERA. If he can find his stuff, he'd be an asset on any team.
Last Ditch Options
SP Gavin Floyd - 30 years old, Floyd has a career ERA of 4.46 and WHIP of 1.33. Not spectacular, but he's generally reliable , consistently mediocre, and would probably be a worthy arm to add if he's not expecting to make more than his 2012 salary.
SP Kevin Correia - 32 years old, Correia has a fairly high career WHIP (1.41) along with an unspectacular 4.54 career ERA. Nevertheless, his numbers are slightly better than his career averages and he would be a reasonable choice for the fifth spot in the rotation.
SP Ervin Santana - 30 years old, Santana has a career 4.33 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. He's demonstrated a decent amount of effectiveness in the past, striking out close to 1 batter per inning pitched. The Angels have a team option for 13 million, which they'd be crazy to exercise. Then again, he made 8 million this year and will likely be seeking close to 13 on the market.
SP Francisco Liriano - 29 years old, I still remember when Liriano was the next big thing. He went 12-3 with 144 K's in 121 innings in his rookie year, and has done little since. Still, Liriano is young and has good movement on his pitches. In 2012 he split time between Minnesota and Chicago, posting an ERA of 5.34 but striking out 167 in 156.2 innings of work. Maybe he is still young enough to get his groove back. One thing's for sure - he shouldn't earn more than the 5.5 million he made in 2012.
For a team hungry for pitching, these players present a lot of options for the Cubs. None of these guys are game breakers, but a handful could be tremendously valuable in the rotation. I'd actually be a bit surprised to see all of these guys reach the market - most should be nabbed up by their current team. Hell, some might already be gone. Hopefully, though, the Cubs can swing a deal for a few. Even Liriano, Santana, Correia, or Floyd would be better choices than most of the lifeless uniforms the Cubs trotted out to the mound last year.
As to the bullpen, I'm not going to bother with an in depth look. There are a lot of players available, and this type of analysis takes a long time and is exhausting. But hey - if you want to guest blog it yourself, please feel free. And if you think I'm totally nuts on my views, let me know. Then again, I haven't really gone into depth about what my take is on the off-season, except to say that I expect the Cubs to bring in a couple of valuable players through free agency, and to swing trades for a couple more. They can't follow the Hendry model and throw money at big names, nor should they try. I'm sure the Hoyer/Epstein Model will be much better than anything I could think of anyway.