The trades and signings have been coming fast and furious of late (and there are more on the way), so you’re getting a steady stream of Cubs-acquire-Player-X posts, followed by Cubs-talk-about-Player-X posts, followed by Brett-analyzes-Player-X posts. We’re onto Step Two of that process with newly signed lefty starter Paul Maholm, with varying steps remaining for guys like Travis Wood, Anthony Rizzo and Zach Cates (you’ll note that Chris Volstad has mostly gotten his due, though I’ve got another long analysis about him coming at some point). For folks clamoring for “actual news and analysis,” rather than the latest rumors, this is your time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to pore over every Cubs-related rumors…
Today, Chicago Cubs GM Jed Hoyer spoke to the media about the Maholm signing, and also addressed other pitching items of note, including the Cubs’ efforts to retain Kerry Wood, and the future of Jeff Samardzija.
- On Maholm’s ability: “[Maholm] takes the ball, eats a lot of innings and really has kept his team in games his whole career …. he’s been a quality left-hander in the division for six years. Hoyer added, though, that Maholm’s talent, and not his knowledge of the NL Central, was the overriding factor in the signing. Hoyer also said that, in general, lefties are more efficient than righties, in part because of their ability to hold runners. I’d add that, because Wrigley Field plays as a strong hitters park for lefty hittes, having lefty starters on the roster can only help the Cubs.
- On Maholm’s health: Hoyer indicated that Maholm passed his physical yesterday, and should be throwing off the mound soon. Maholm was shut down in August with a shoulder strain, after trying to pitch through it. The Cubs are confident he’ll be ready to go this year.
- On the overall state of the Cubs’ rotation: “We’re very comfortable with the names that we have. You never know what will happen over the course of the winter, what’s going to be available to us. A huge priority was building depth and we feel we’ve done that. You can never have enough pitching; the minute you think you have enough pitching, you don’t. We’re happy with the depth we’ve built up over the course of the winter. It’s a dangerous thing to say you’re ever done.”
- On the relationship between Matt Garza trade rumors (which Hoyer would not address directly) and the Maholm signing, which gives the Cubs six starters: “This Maholm contract, and the fact you can look and say we have six starters now, this deal is not a precursor to anything.” Maybe not directly or immediately, but I’ll say it again: I would be shocked if the Cubs broke camp with all of Garza, Dempster, Wells, Wood, Volstad, and Maholm on the roster.
- On the roster move necessary to open up a spot for Maholm: Hoyer called it a procedural requirement that should be settled soon. The implication was that the Cubs would attempt to deroster a player currently on the 40-man roster to make room for Maholm. If it comes to that, rather than a trade, I’d guess the early favorites to be dumped (which would expose them to being claimed by another team) are pitchers Marcos Mateo, Alberto Cabrera and John Gaub.
- On talks with free agent reliever Kerry Wood, whose future looks anything but certain right now: “We continue to want Kerry back in Chicago and we’ve offered him a substantial raise and we certainly hope it gets done.” Hoyer added: “[Epstein] and I and the rest of the people we brought in, obviously we come in with somewhat a fresh set of eyes, that doesn’t diminish what people have done long before we’re here …. [we] understand the history of the organization and which players mean the most to the fan base. And Kerry is one of them. So that is something we’re aware of, and fresh eyes are one thing but that doesn’t’ mean you ignore the rich past the Cubs have.” Substantial is an amorphous term, but clearly the Cubs are at least making an effort to bring Kerry back, and not just showing him the door by way of insulting offers. Still, Hoyer is clearly leaving open the door for a Wood departure.
- Despite the existence of six starting pitchers already on the roster, Hoyer said the Cubs are planning to ask Jeff Samardzija to prepare as a starting pitcher in Spring Training. “I think that’s important not only for the possibility that he could be in the rotation but also for his development,” Hoyer said. “If you prepare as a starter in Spring Training, it helps with your command and with your secondary pitches. We do see Jeff as a guy who can start. With the depth, he may wind up being a quality bullpen arm for us but we are going to prepare him in Spring Training as a starter.” Again, signing Maholm may not be an explicit “precursor” to another move, but something is going to happen. I’m just saying.