By all accounts, Jon Lester is at the top of the Cubs list and is the front office’s primary pitching target of the off-season. James Shields has been mentioned as a fallback option in case the front office can’t land Lester. The Cubs are reportedly interested in Max Scherzer as well. And Cole Hamels is also a possibility for the Cubs to upgrade the rotation.
As Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have said, the front office would ideally add two starting pitchers this winter. Despite reports from the New York, Boston and national media, if the Cubs are able to sign Jon Lester, a second pitcher would likely be for the backend of the rotation.
It is known the Cubs have money to spend this winter, so just about every free agent, especially on the pitching side, is going to be connected to the North Side of Chicago by the mainstream media. Even with the perceived payroll flexibility, the front office is not going to deviate from The Plan that was put in motion a little over three years ago.
The Cubs would like to add pitchers from outside the organization that can not only help the team reach its goal but give the rotation a veteran presence and around 200 innings.
Jason Hammel is the second-tier option that has been linked to the Cubs the most, but there are a few other options that have been reported as possibilities for the Cubs.
The Yankees could be the Cubs biggest competition for Jason Hammel. Several reports have indicated the Yankees are not going on a spending spree this winter and will not be involved in the bidding for Jon Lester or Max Scherzer. According to a report from Jon Heyman, the Yankees are targeting Jason Hammel and Brandon McCarthy. And the Twins are also believed to be very interested in Hammel,
It appears Jason Hammel, Jake Peavy, Brandon McCarthy and Edinson Volquez will receive at least two-year commitments from teams while one-year deals with club options would likely land Justin Masterson or Brett Anderson.
Chris Bosio turned last year’s ‘Plan B’ into an effective starter and Jason Hammel could be an option for the Cubs again this winter. Hammel said he enjoyed his time with the Cubs and is interested in re-signing with the team. It will take at least a two-year contract to ink Hammel this time around with estimates in the $10-12 million per season range.
Throwing to John Baker last year, Hammel was 8-5 in 17 starts with a 2.98 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 3.19 FIP. Hammel struck out 104 batter, issued 23 walks and allowed 88 hits in 108 2/3 innings. Bosio raved about Hammel in the spring and he did not disappoint with the Cubs.
Hammel struggled with Oakland after the trade and managed a 2-6 record in 13 games, 12 starts, with a 4.26 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 5.10 FIP (54 strikeouts, 21 walks, 66 hits allowed in 67 2/3 innings).
Justin Masterson had a bad year, but he feels he’s healthy after dealing with rib cage and knee injuries and a shoulder impingement. Masterson did not require surgery and worked out the scar tissue in his rib cage which was restricting him.
The front office knows Masterson well and there are questions if Masterson would be better suited as a reliever at this point in his career than a starter.
With the injuries and ineffectiveness, Justin Masterson should receive one year offers this winter in order to help build his value.
Jake Peavy would like to pitch for the Cubs, at least that what he told reporters during The World Series. Peavy was effective during his time with San Francisco and is a good fit with the Giants. Peavy would offer the Cubs veteran leadership the front office would like to add this winter. But giving a declining Jake Peavy more than a two-year contract might not be the best use of the Cubs free agent dollars.
Jake Peavy is somewhere between the pitcher he was in Boston (1-9 with a 4.72 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 4.80 FIP) and the one that ended the season with the Giants (6-4 with a 2.17 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 3.03 FIP).
The Sun-Times and Buster Olney mentioned Brett Anderson as an option for the Cubs this week, especially if Chris Bosio stays on Joe Maddon’s staff. When Anderson has been healthy, he’s been effective and a lefty groundball pitcher at Wrigley would make sense.
A one-year, incentive laden contract with a club option could be enough to sign Brett Anderson. Chris Bosio has garnered quite the reputation of getting injured pitchers back on track and that might also be appealing to him.
Brett Anderson has not pitched a full season since 2009 but he allowed 18 runs, 14 earned, on 44 hits in 43 1/3 innings over eight starts (two against the Cubs) last year with the Rockies that included 29 strikeouts and 13 walks (2.91 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 2.99 FIP).
Brett Anderson would pitch at age 27 next season which fits in with the Cubs model.
The Cubs were interested in Brandon McCarthy two years ago, but his performance in the Bronx after the trade from Arizona probably took him out of the Cubs range this time around.
The Yankees have made him a primary target and he could be looking at a three-year contact for $14-15 million per season. Keith Law credited McCarthy using his cutter again for the reason for his success with the Yankees. McCarthy completed 200 innings last season, the most in his career.
Brandon McCarthy was a combined 10-15 last season with a 4.05 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 3.55 WHIP that included 175 strikeouts and 33 walks with 222 hits allowed in 200 innings.
Edinson Volquez is coming off his best season since 2008 after he figured out, with help from Pirates’ pitching coach Ray Searage, how to throw strikes again and the Pirates defense. Most feel Volquez should run back to the Pirates and re-sign as quickly as possible.
Volquez was 13-7 in 32 games, 31 starts, in 2014 with a 3.04 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 4.15 FIP. Volquez allowed 166 hits with 140 strikeouts and 71 walks in 192 2/3 innings.
Edinson Volquez has been mentioned as a possibility, but of all the second-tier options he appears to be the least likely to sign with the Cubs. But of course that could change if the front office signs Russell Martin.