UPDATE - Scott Baker is in the fold. Expect Brandon McCarthy and Kevin Correia any day now.
This is in response to the series of articles the Tribune is making their two lead baseball beat writers provide for the Sox (DOOOONNNNTTTT CAAAAAARRRRREEEE) and the Cubs. Each day, the writer is forced to present a positional recap and a prospectus for next year at that position. Of course, on our side it's Paul Sullivan, and Sully took the path of least resistance so far this week. First he hit Catcher, primarily a story about Welington Castillo. Then First Base, an ode to Anthony Rizzo. Next was Second Base, and cute catchy Darwin Barney. Yesterday was Shortstop, with Chicago's newest millionaire, Starlin Castro. (Why no links? No news in any of these. This is what passes for our 'core'. Plus lazy)
As an aside, I'd love to hear from Sully, to find out the process behind this series. As hard as it must have been to follow the Cubs this year, at least while the season is going on, there is always new material to write about on a daily basis, whether on the field or off. But afterwards, to have to bang this out every day for the best part of two weeks? Is this a matter of being locked in a room last weekend, not to emerge until the whole series was done, with nothing but coarse bread and thin broth for sustenance? Or is this a daily ritual, coming into the office, sitting at a workstation in a cramped cube under sickly flourescent fixtures embedded in a dingy industrial ceiling?
Anyway, today's article was about the gaping suckhole at third base, and the has-been band-aid solutions available for next year. These include Kevin Youkilis, who enjoyed validation as it was shown that he wasn't necessarily the problem in Boston, at the same time contributing greatly to the September gag-job at the Cell with his .219 September average. Of course, that's what Luis Valbuena hit for the entire year, and he's the one we're actually considering bringing back. The last line of the article meant the most to me, when Sully claimed the decision to staff third base next year might be the most interesting one of all. I totally disagree.
We have potential third basemen in our pipeline, depending on whether Josh Vitters has one more growth spurt left in him, and whether Javier Baez is better at shortstopping than Starlin Castro. But as Harry Caray once asked, "Whaaat about tha PITCHING?"
Last week I proposed that Theo and His Merry Band of Lesser GMs would probably go after Scott Baker and Kevin Correia, two 30-year-old types who have past track records of moderate success and would not mind using the first half of next season as a psuedo-tryout for inclusion in the rotations of more accomplished teams, like Paul Maholm (the poster boy for buy low, sell high) did this year. That's definitely one way to inject life in a stagnant farm system, if you can get two prospects apiece for them. Since then I noticed Cubs Den Tom recapped a chat with Bruce Levine, where it was mentioned that someone like Brandon McCarthy might be available. McCarthy is 27 and before he found fame as the beaning victim who hilariously tweeted about asking his wife about a three-way as he was leaving the hospital, was orginally a top pitching prospect for the Sox. Of course, Ozzie didn't like him, probably because he was a better, funnier tweeter, so he sent him along to the A's. A few years later, McCarthy is at the point in his life where he expects a big-boy salary, which usually means having to leave the A's.
The point is, there aren't going to be many decent starting pitchers in their mid-20s available, which was the assumption made when names like Baker and Correia were mentioned. Theo isn't acquiring 32 year old guys to keep them long term. But he never said he wouldn't acquire 27 year old guys. He just never thought there would be any available.
Ah, you say? What about last year? There was an available 27 year old, helluva player too. Right now, he's playing first base on the Tigers, who are in the ALCS. Of course, we had Anthony Rizzo, who Theo thinks is going to be every bit as good as Prince Fielder, for a longer time, too. The braintrust feels we have enough position players in the pipeline, to where we don't have to engage in bidding wars for free agent hitters or trade away prospects in deals to get young hitters.
They certainly cannot feel the same about pitchers, though. For the first time in several years, the Cubs have money to spend, and some prospects to trade. Theo has been looking for a wrinkle to exploit, to replace the ones that have closed with the most recent CBA, such as overslotting draft picks. Using any means possible to draw young pitchers away from small-market teams who choose not to give seven-and-eight-figure contracts might be one of them. As a fan, I can feel sentimental and mean about plundering pitchers away from the A's, Royals, Pirates, and the like. I'm confident the GMs have no such feelings holding them back.
In the past 12 months, for example, the Nats got Gio Gonzalez, the Reds got Mat Latos, and the Tigers got Anibal Sanchez. I understand the allure of getting someone like Arodys Vizcaino. IF he is able to do what we hope, come up to the Cubs at the trade deadline, then we wouldn't have to even offer him arbitration until after 2016. But the big IF is that he has never succeeded in the big leagues thus far. Most feel that he will, but there is a distinct possibility that he won't. There is less of a possibility that Brandon McCarthy, who has done it before, will forget or is unable to pitch again in the big leagues.
A cursory glance into the arbitration eligibles for 2013 do not turn up any starting pitchers in their mid-20s that are worth a damn, that caught my eye. So if one becomes available, by whatever means, the Chicago Cubs have to get him, going forward.