The Starting Pitcher Picture Remains Fuzzy for the Cubs

Several teams, including the Cubs, are looking to sign a starting pitcher or two before Spring Training begins. The Cubs could be waiting for the free agent market to play out a little to see who is left that would fit their needs. Jed Hoyer said they are looking for “innings” and the Cubs have been connected to Paul Maholm and Jason Hammel. But the Cubs might have internal options that would fit their needs.

A.J. Burnett, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez figure to be the next starters in line for deals. Then the teams that missed out on those three could turn to the likes of Bronson Arroyo, Paul Maholm and Jason Hammel to give their managers an additional option in the rotation. For the Cubs, there are a couple of pitchers already on their 40-man roster that could compete with Jake Arrieta and Chris Rusin for the final two spots in the rotation.

The Cubs have asked Carlos Villanueva and Justin Grimm to report to Mesa prepared to start games. Villanueva is in the final season of the two-year contract he signed with the Cubs and would have more value as a starter than as a reliever in July. Grimm has a big arm; one that many feel projects better as a late-inning reliever. But Grimm has starting experience and the stuff to be successful in a starting role.

Non-roster invitee, Tsuyoshi Wada will also be in camp trying to earn a spot on the roster. Then there are the young arms in Kyle Hendricks, Dallas Beeler, Eric Jokisch and Neil Ramirez that could make their big league debuts at some point during the upcoming season.

So while the Cubs wait for the dominoes to fall in the free agent starter market, there are at least options that can be explored during Spring Training if the front office is unable to add “innings” to the roster.

Jeff Samardzija

Jeff Samardzija would like to stay with the Cubs and help them win baseball games. The front office would like to sign Samardzija to an extension. But the two sides remain far apart in the numbers department and Samardzija would like to have an idea of the Cubs’ timeline for competing again.

While Jeff Samardzija is preparing for Spring Training at the Cubs’ facility in Mesa, the front office continues to have dialogue with other teams about Samardzija.

The same two teams that were hot on Samardzija’s trail earlier in the winter appear to be interested again … the Blue Jays and Diamondbacks.

Alex Anthropolous told the Blue Jays’ beat reporters the price of free agent starters is coming down, which could help Toronto in their efforts to sign either Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez. Ken Rosenthal reported Toronto has done extensive background work on Ubaldo Jimenez and are still interested in Ervin Santana.

The Blue Jays or Diamondbacks could still turn to the Cubs for Jeff Samardzija before Spring Training begins. But both teams would have to meet the Cubs’ high asking price for Samardzija. The Mariners are looking to acquire another starter, even with Scott Baker on his way to big league camp on a non-roster invitation … but according to Ken Rosenthal, the Mariners “do not appear focused” on Jeff Samardzija.

Suk-Min Yoon

The Cubs were thought to be interested in signing RHP Suk-Min Yoon earlier in the off-season. Yoon would give the Cubs some much-needed depth in the pitching department, if he is healthy. Yoon did not sign with a team before the holidays but returned from South Korea after the first year as his agent, Scott Boras, worked on finding him a contract.

Four teams have reportedly offered Yoon a contract and he is believed to be negotiating with two of them. Yoon has been working out at Scott Boras’ facility, the Boras Training Institute, preparing for Spring Training.

According to Darren Wolfson, the Twins are interested in Yoon and “are monitoring his situation” but do not appear to be willing to meet Scott Boras’ asking price. The money needs to come down in order for the Twins to sign him. Wolfson heard the asking price for Yoon might be two years, $12 million. According to Paul Hoynes, the Indians were interested in Yoon until they found out Scott Boras’ asking price.

Scott Boras told Nick Cafardo late Wednesday night “the Red Sox are one on many teams interested in South Korean Suk-Min Yoon” and there should be clarity with Yoon in 10 days.

Scott Baker

The Cubs lost one possibility for their rotation Wednesday when the Mariners announced the signing of Scott Baker to a minor league contract. The Indians, Rangers and Royals also offered Baker a minor league contract but he decided Seattle was the best landing spot for him.

Baker will compete for a spot in the Mariners rotation this spring. If he makes the club, Baker will be paid $1 million in base salary for the season. The deal is believed to include an incentives package worth $3.25 million that would run the total for Baker to $4.25 million.

The Cubs rolled the dice and signed Baker last winter in the hopes he would return from Tommy John surgery in time to be traded in July. Baker suffered a setback during his only outing in Spring Training and spent a majority of the season working his way back to the big leagues. Baker made three starts for the Cubs in September.

Matt Garza

One final Cubs related note on the Brewers’ Matt Garza, at least until Spring Training or the regular season. The Cubs received a very good package of players from the Rangers for Garza, but could the package have been even better?

According to Peter Gammons, the original deal for Garza included second base prospect Rougned Odor. But when the Rangers reviewed Garza’s medicals, Odor was removed from the deal. Rumors last summer suggested Odor was in the talks but it was unclear at the time as to why he was not included. Keith Law ranked Rougned Odor, the offensively minded second baseman, no. 64 on his list of the Top 100 Prospects list that was released Wednesday … and Baseball America ranked Odor as the Rangers’ top prospect.

News and Notes

Early in the off-season the Cubs were connected to Bronson Arroyo due to his time in Boston with the Cubs’ current front office. Arroyo has not been mentioned as a possibility for the Cubs since, and that is likely due to his age and asking price, not to mention Arroyo might be looking for more than what the Cubs can offer him. Arroyo told Jayson Stark he has not received an offer this winter, not even one he could turn down. 12 teams contacted his agent this winter but not one of them made an offer. Stark reported Arroyo is looking for a three-year deal in the $30 million range. Arroyo could be looking at a two-year contract with an option and an AAV around $10 million.

During an interview on MLB Network Radio with Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette, Brewers’ GM Doug Melvin mentioned a stat from last season that few might be aware of. According to Melvin, “Last year, 67 percent of all free agent signings ended up on the DL, and you always need to be aware of it, and cautious.”

The Minnesota Twins signed former Cubs’ reliever Matt Guerrier to a minor league contract. The deal was announced Wednesday and includes a non-roster invite to Spring Training.

The Padres decided to make a change in their radio booth and did not renew Andy Masur’s contract. Andy Masur is an excellent announcer and he did a very good job calling Cubs’ games with Pat Hughes and Ron Santo.

Former Cubs’ farmhand Garrett Schlecht, who asked for and was granted his release from the Cubs, signed a minor league contract with the Rockies and will enter Colorado’s system as a left-handed pitcher.

Former Cubs’ starter Randy Wells is feeling good and wants to pitch in the majors again.

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO and @TheCCO_Minors

Quote of the Day

"You can’t sit on a lead and kill the clock. You’ve got to give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game." - Earl Weaver