Wednesday will not go down as a banner day in the history of the Chicago Cubs. While many felt the Yankees would end up with Masahiro Tanaka when the process began, there was a feeling of disappointment among the faithful that the Cubs were not able to keep him from signing with the Evil Empire.
The last three seasons has been the worst stretch at the big league level in team history and even the most-patient fans that are behind the Cubs’ plan to build an organization with sustained success were looking at what signing Tanaka would represent … a step in the right direction on the field and a commitment from ownership to spend big money on the Major League team. Instead, the Cubs will turn to the third-tier free agent pitching market in hopes of adding rotation depth before Spring Training begins.
Then, while many were still processing the Cubs not being able to sign their off-season target, the Sun-Times reported the biggest news of the day. The team and the Wrigleyville Rooftop Association had a not-so-good meeting on Tuesday. Not only is the Wrigley Field Restoration project going to be further delayed, but the rooftops are taking the Cubs to court which could set the project back several years. The two sides could not come to an agreement that would allow the rooftops to retain its views of a team that is 198-288 over the last three seasons … and are just three losses short of four straight 90-loss seasons.
The main storylines going into the winter included the Cubs working out a deal with the rooftops and the team’s television and radio contracts. The Cubs are expected to announce the radio partnership by Opening Day. But the TV rights and the restoration project remain up in the air. The business operations department must get these game changing deals taken care of so the baseball side can have the financial flexibility it needs to compete.
Pitching, Pitching and Pitching
Masahiro Tanaka’s appeal to the Cubs was he is only 25-years old, he projects as a top of the rotation starter and he would not cost them a draft pick or the slot money associated with the pick. Simply put, he fit in the Cubs’ long term vision. The Cubs earmarked payroll this winter to sign him and they should be able to roll that money into next off-season when a handful of top of the rotation, veteran starters could be on the market.
The Cubs will continue to attack the lack of pitching in the system with volume. A majority of the Cubs’ picks in the June draft will be used on pitchers and any trade the front office makes will include a pitching prospect or two coming back to the Cubs. But as for the upcoming season at the big league level, do not look for the front office to sign any of the big name starters left on the market.
A reunion with Matt Garza is not happening. The Cubs and Garza have not been connected to one another this winter. Garza is looking for a long-term commitment (four-five years) and he would not fit their plans moving forward. Plus, there are concerns throughout baseball about Garza’s medicals.
Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana are attached to draft pick compensation after both pitchers rejected qualifying offers from the Indians and Royals respectively. The Cubs are not going to give up their second round pick, and the slot money attached to the pick, to sign either pitcher.
The Cubs are thought to be interested in signing Paul Maholm for a second time and have been connected to Jason Hammel and Joe Saunders. ESPN Chicago shot down the possibility of the Cubs re-signing Scott Baker.
Justin Grimm and Carlos Villanueva will report to Mesa on Feb. 13 ready to compete for a spot in the Cubs’ Opening Day rotation. Villanueva is under contract for one more season and it would be fair to say he would be worth more as a starter in July than as a swingman.
Kyle Hendricks should be in camp as a non-roster invitee. Hendricks being in camp on a NRI was thought to be a given before Theo Epstein said at least two starters that were in Chicago last week for the Rookie Development Program would not receive NRI’s because there would not be enough innings for them to prepare for the season. Chris Bosio likes Hendricks and has spoken highly of him on more than one occasion. But in all likelihood, Hendricks is ticketed to begin his season in Iowa’s rotation.
With Brooks Raley no longer a starter, the Cubs have five starting pitcher options on the 40-man roster not named Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood or Edwin Jackson. Jake Arrieta and Chris Rusin finished up last season in the Cubs’ rotation and will be favorites to begin the year in the rotation. Dallas Beeler, Brett Marshall and Neil Ramirez simply need more developmental time and would be long shots, at best, to break camp with the big league team.
As for the other free agent starting pitchers not attached to a draft pick, Bronson Arroyo was connected to the Cubs early in the off-season due to the front office’s history with the player. Arroyo appears to be on his way to the Dodgers with Tanaka in New York. The Cubs were thought to be interested in Clayton Richard at one point but as a reliever and not a starter. Once the Cubs inked Jonathan Sanchez to a minor league deal the rumblings about Richard ended.
The Cubs should sign at least one starting pitcher before camp begins. It just won’t be the one the team was targeting.
News and Notes
The Cubs are counting on Jake Arrieta and Mike Olt according to the Tribune.
Mesa is ready to unveil Cubs Park on Saturday, the $84 million facility funded by public money.