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The Winter Meetings kick off today, though the weekend certainly had a Winter Meeting feel to it, with rumors and transactions flying. The Chicago Cubs will be among the more active teams at the Meetings – in terms of discussions, at least. With very little money to spend, and a number of holes to fill, the Cubs will have to be active if they expect to be competitive next year.

Among the moves the team might make: signing a starting pitcher.

They will scan former aces like Brandon Webb and Jeff Francis, both trying to revert to All-Star form after being sidelined with arm injuries. Webb, a former Cy Young winner, hasn’t pitched in the Major Leagues since Opening Day of the 2009 season. A shoulder problem has persisted until recently for Webb. The Cubs watched the former Diamondback throw in the Arizona Instructional League in early November. Webb, at his peak, was a sinkerball master, but now he has lost some of his velocity. Cubs scouts had him topping out at 86 miles per an hour when they saw him in Arizona. If the Cubs can’t find a functional veteran to plug in, the consensus is they’ll move relief pitcher Andrew Cashner into the rotation. The Cubs also feel that pitching prospects Jay Jackson, Chris Carpenter (not the Cardinals pitcher) and Chris Archer will be a part of the pitching staff some time in 2011. ESPN Chicago.

While Webb and Francis might not get you excited, the recognition that Andrew Cashner might be most valuable in the rotation, rather than the bullpen, is very exciting. He’s probably not ready to handle a full compliment of innings as a starter in 2011, but by all means, let’s get that ball rolling.

Signing a Webb or a Francis, by the way, should do nothing to prevent Cashner’s transition. Those two are types that should be looking to compete for a rotation spot, not be handed one.

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