Some Friday morning fodder for discussion:

I thought it might be interesting, before Spring Training starts, to discuss who you think should round out the Cubs’ rotation, and what should become of those who don’t make the cut. We’ve not even seen them pitch in Spring Training games, so the discussion is entirely academic – in other words, it assumes that you have to make the decision now, without knowing how well the pitchers are throwing the ball right now. Obviously, once the games get under way, we’ll have a fair bit more data to enter into our mental computers.

But, until then, who you got? We know that Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, and Paul Maholm are locked into the top three slots, and we know that the primary names competing for the other spots are Randy Wells, Travis Wood, Chris Volstad, Jeff Samardzija, Andy Sonnanstine, Casey Coleman, and Rodrigo Lopez.

For me, knowing nothing else, I’d give the last two spots to Volstad and Wood. While I think Randy Wells has done nothing to deserve booting from the rotation, given what the Cubs’ 2012 is likely to look like, I’d rather see the Cubs give the two younger pitchers, with more upside, a free chance to see what they can do. Wells can either head to AAA to serve as depth, the bullpen to serve as a long-man, or the trade block. It’s not an easy decision.

As for the rest, Samardzija can continue to improve as a late-inning reliever, Sonnanstine can either head to AAA or be the long-man in the pen, and Coleman and Lopez can head to AAA (break glass in case of emergency).

How about you? Thoughts?

  • Luke

    Until Dempster is traded:

    Garza, Maholm, Dempster, Wood, Samardzija

    After Dempster is traded:

    Garza, Maholm, Wood, Samardzija, Volstead

    • Mike

      Dempster or Garza could be traded. I know they are talking about extending Garza and I hope they do. Hamels might be available next year…?

      • Eric

        Hammels, Grienke, Cain, Sanchez and McCarthy top that free agent class. McCarthy might be your best relatively young bang-for-the-buck.

        Scott Baker (31) – $9.25MM club option
        Erik Bedard (34)
        Joe Blanton (32)
        Matt Cain (28)
        Fausto Carmona (29) – $9MM club option
        Bartolo Colon (40)
        Aaron Cook (34)
        Kevin Correia (32)
        Jorge De La Rosa (32) – $11MM player option with a $1MM buyout
        Ryan Dempster (36)
        R.A. Dickey (38) – $5MM club option with a $300K buyout
        Zach Duke (30)
        Scott Feldman (29) – $9.25MM club option with a $600K buyout
        Jeff Francis (31)
        Gavin Floyd (30) – $9.5MM club option
        Freddy Garcia (37)
        Zack Greinke (28)
        Jeremy Guthrie (34)
        Cole Hamels (29)
        Rich Harden (31)
        Dan Haren (32) – $15.5MM club option with a $3.5MM buyout
        Livan Hernandez (38)
        Tim Hudson (37) – $9MM club option with a $1MM buyout
        Edwin Jackson (29)
        Hiroki Kuroda (38)
        Colby Lewis (33)
        Francisco Liriano (29)
        Kyle Lohse (34)
        Rodrigo Lopez (37)
        Derek Lowe (40)
        Paul Maholm (31) – $6.5MM club option with a $500K buyout
        Shaun Marcum (31)
        Jason Marquis (34)
        Daisuke Matsuzaka (32)
        Brandon McCarthy (29)
        Kevin Millwood (38)
        Brett Myers (32) – $10MM club option with a $3MM buyout
        Carl Pavano (37)
        Jake Peavy (31) – $22MM club option with a $4MM buyout
        Joel Pineiro (34)
        Anibal Sanchez (29)
        Jonathan Sanchez (30)
        Ervin Santana (30) – $13MM club option with a $1MM buyout
        Joe Saunders (32)
        James Shields (31) – $9MM club option with a $1.5MM buyout
        Chien-Ming Wang (33)
        Jake Westbrook (35) – $8.5MM mutual option with a $1MM buyout if club declines
        Dontrelle Willis (31)
        Randy Wolf (36) – $10MM club option with a $1.5MM buyout
        Carlos Zambrano (32) – $19.25MM player option depending on Zambrano’s Cy Young voting placement

        • Mike

          Can you put those in order of whom you think is best (or whom you want or prefer the Cubs to sign)? Sounds like a task. How about just the top 10?

          For me (Not in order): Hamels, Haren, Greinke, Floyd, Cain, A. Sanchez, Shields, Santana, Carmona, Liriano

          Then put them in order to whom you think is most likely (top 5) to sign with the Cubs.

          Hamels, Shields, Cain, Greinke, Floyd- But I am just spit-balln’

          • Cubbie Blues

            I got a chuckle when I got down to Z with the Cy Young voting. I knew it was in there but it is still funny especially when seen written down.

    • Chris S

      Dempster has a no trade clause and loves Chicago.. why would he agree to leave?

      • DannyBallgame

        He’s not going anywhere. Will probably finish his career at the back end of the Cubs rotation(if he takes a huge discount)

      • Luke

        To chase the ring. It’s not all that uncommon for players who love the city they are playing in and who insist that they don’t want to be traded to agree to a trade when a contender offers them another a shot at the World Series.

        If a contending teams makes a good offer for Dempster, the Cubs will pass that offer on to Dempster. And if the Cubs are effectively out of contention, I think he’ll take it.

        Of course, if the Cubs are still realistically in it on July 30 he’d likely stay in Chicago and see what happens. I don’t see that happening, though.

        • FromFenwayPahk

          Edit: Sorry. Fat-fingered this post.

    • Chris

      I tend to agree with Luke (but Dempster and Garza are interchangeable in that theory, imo). I really want Samardzija to have a knockout ST and win a spot in the rotation. He, Wood, and Volstad *could* be three quality starters to build around

  • Fishin Phil

    I think the final two spots in the rotation should go to TWC and myself.

    • Stinky Pete

      Here, here. And I want autographed jerseys.

      • TWC

        You misspelled “banana hammock”.  HTH.

    • King Jeff

      We don’t need any violations of the drug policy, and Soto doesn’t need any more distractions, so the hippie is a no go.

      • TWC

        Phil’s a hippie?

  • Mike

    I actually agree with the everything you posted. I do have a feeling Wells might beat someone out for the fifth spot though.

    I like Samardzija as a reliever. He proved he is highly effective there last year. Him, K. Wood, and Marmol at the end of the bullpen I think is our best option.

  • ChicagOdie

    This is the year to find out what you have. In my opinion, we know Wells’ ceiling. I hope they give Samardzija the chance while they can afford to. If it doesn’t work out, he can always be sent to the bullpen at mid-season.

  • King Jeff

    Samardzija is going to tear up camp and become the teams ace this year, simply because opposing batters are going to be afraid to look at his mustache.

    • Cubbie Blues

      Are you saying Shark is Tidrow-esk? You’re treading on thin ice with that one.

      • TWC

        Samardzija will break Orel Hersheiser’s consecutive scoreless innings pitched record this year.  I just know it.

    • Brett

      Works on me.

  • HuskerCub

    I suppose Dempster needs to start to maintain his trade value, but I hope they give the younger guys a chance. I would like to see Garza, Dempster, Wood, Samardzija and Volstad, with Maholm as long relief/spot starter. Send the rest to AAA.

  • SirCub

    One thing to think about is these players will respond when they find out they won’t be getting a spot in the rotation. I’m kind of afraid of how that could affect Samardzija, seems like he kind of feels like it is owed to him or something. Just the vibe I get.

  • subtle

    I also see Shark as more of a hard-throwing reliever at this point unless he shows he can duplicate his 2011 stuff in Spring Training. Volstad and Wood look like the best 4-5 the Cubs have at this point.

  • Dan

    Hmm, I’m surprised you don’t have Randy in the rotation. He has experience, he’s in his prime (29 years old), and has the better career ERA of 4.01 out of all the starters competing. He’s a lock for a spot, you can count on it! Obviously, if his injuries come to surface again, then he’s a lock for the DL.

    My darkhorse candidate to start will be Samardzija. He’s about to enter his prime (27 years old) and I think it will be his last chance to prove he can start in the big leagues. Otherwise, he’s going to be a relief pitcher the rest of his life.

    Volstad and T. Wood will be in the bullpen. T. Wood will be the 7th inning guy. Volstad for long relief. Kid K 8th, Marmol 9th. Russell relief. Lastly, I think the last spot goes to someone that pitches out of there minds during spring training.

  • djriz

    Gotta go with Volstad and Shark. At 26-27 years old, it’s time for them to ‘blank’ or get off the pot. (but, my guess is they both are more valuable in a relief role)

    Wood could easily go to AAA and be viable for a mid season callup. Wells..can’t really care much.

  • Noah

    I’d go Garza/Demspter/Maholm/Volstad/Wells.

    While I’d like to be wrong, I think Shark starting would be a disaster. He walks way too many guys, and still really only has one good pitch. If he’s made a starter, I think it’s an experiment that lasts 6 or 7 starts at most. I wouldn’t be surprised if he only lasted 4 starts, though.

    I actually like Wood long term better than Volstad and Wells, but I’d rather save his service time and pay him near MLB minimum to be in Iowa than to pay Wells his arbtitration rate to be there.

  • The Other Matt

    I’ll go Wells and Wood for the last two spots.

  • BleedBlueinWNeb

    simple stuff here…

    1. garza
    2. dempster
    3. maholm
    4. volstad
    5. wood

    theo and jed brought 3,4,5 in and that means they get first crack at rotation. As for Wells i don’t know how well suited he is to pitch out of the pen. if he can then that’s fine with me. fine with him going to iowa and if the FO wants to trade him then that’s fine too. doubt they’ll be looking to trade him because i think he’s worth more as insurance than what he could bring back in a deal. Sonnanstine seems like a long man in the pen. As for Samardzija he’s the wildcard of this bunch…he could be a great starter, or he could implode. safe bet is to have him in the pen i guess.

  • Mike S

    Garza, Dempster, Maholm, Volstad, Wood.

    Wells has been given multiply chances and constantly shows he 1.) Cannot get out of the first inning; and 2.) cannot stay of the DL.

    We are paying Volstad a SUBSTANTIAL amount of money and I doubt they want that all going to a long-relief guy, especially since Bosio is so high on him. Wood and Samardzija will battle it out for the 5th spot, but I think that Samardzija will be our next closer after Marmol is gone. He’s got more value there than as our 5th starter.

    I see Wells and Lopez serving as guys who could be long relief and/or spot starts. Coleman I think will start in AAA along with Sonnanstine.

  • Andrew

    If I were a betting man, I’d say Brett’s prediction is the most likely right now.

    That being said what I want to see is:


    Volstad goes to the pen. Wells is the long man or is traded for a decent package. If traded, Volstad is long man and somebody else, takes Samardzijas bullpen spot.

    While Samardzija I believe could be a great closer, I think he can be a pretty good starter, and I would rather have a pretty good starter than a great closer any day. Putting Samardzija in the pen this year because thats where he is most needed, not only do i believe is false, because good relievers arent that hard to find, but I think is very shortsighted since he will be more valuable as a starter than Volstad or Wells will be in my opinion.

    I think it’s pretty clear Lopez, Coleman and Sonnanstine are just emergency options with Coleman maybe being able to develop into a decent major leaguer with another year in AAA.

  • rbreeze

    Garza, Dempster, Maholm, T.Wood and Samarj would be my preference.  After Dempster is traded then Volstad moves into the #5 spot.  Even though Demp is no trade, why would he stand in the Cubs way if he can get moved to a contender at the deadline?

    I think Wells will get traded before spring training breaks.  Some team is going to need an arm to fill out the rotation due to injury.  Then Dempster goes at the trade deadline and McNutt or another body moves in.  We have a lot of options in for the rotation for a couple of reasons.  One to absorb any injuries to our rotation and the other to have some bodies (options) to trade.  Epstein and Hoyer have a lot of flexibility to make some quality moves as long as the injury bug doesn’t hit us hard.

  • Cory

    We know wells ceiling its nothing more then a 5th starter I would love to see volstad and the shark or volstad wood why not see if they can live up to there potential in what should be a down year I like wells but his stuff is just not very impressive id rather lose with potential then flounder in mediocrity

  • ferrets_bueller

    1st choice:

    2nd choice (most probable: shark to the pen)

  • Tom Delfs


  • rbreeze

    Wells frustrates me because he’ll pitch 3 or 4 or 5 good solid innings and then the wheels totally fall off and he gives up 5 runs and the Cubs are buried because of a weak offense.  He is a #5 at best.  Its too bad because he seems like a good guy.  He was one of the best pitchers in spring last year and then he got hurt in his first start and his season was shot.  Go with the younger guys who may have a longer future here.

    Shark might make for a great closer if he doesn’t make the starting rotation.  Mix in some facial hair with a scowl on his face.  He could run in from the bullpen with the music from (movie) Jaws playing.  Hoffman had AC/DC playing when he ran in.

    • DocWimsey

      I don’t think that was very common with Wells. The Cubs big problem last year was how many runs they gave up in the first inning: only the Orioles, Astros and Rockies were worse (and none of them by much). I seem to recall Wells being a huge culprit: he had several high pitch count, run-allowing first innings, which put the Cubs down right off the bat.

      The Cubs offense itself was league average, so getting down early usually cost them the game. (Of course, getting down early costs most teams most games.)

  • Edwin

    I would go:

    1. Garza
    2. Dempster
    3. Maholm
    4. Wells
    5. Wood

    I don’t know why everyone is so down on Wells. He’s had 2 good seasons, and one bad season. Maybe his injuries have caught up with him, or the league has adjusted to him, but he’s at least shown me he can be a good pitcher. For what it’s worth, I also like the human element side. He’s been a fun underdog to root for.

    I don’t think Volstad is going to turn out. He’s had three full seasons, and all of them have been bad. The only thing he seems to have going for him is that he’s tall (tall pitchers take longer to develope I’ve heard), and he’s still young enough not to be completely written off. I just think that if I guy has had as much time in the bigs as Volstad and still can’t perform, he probably never will.

    • When the Music’s Over

      I have a feeling people are down on Wells simply because Volstad and Wood are the shiny new (well….used….but new to the Cubs) toys they aren’t tired of yet. While their ages vary, statistically, none of the three really stands out from the others

  • Joe

    I think you have to take into account Shark’s intense desire to start. I think he’s destined for the bullpen eventually, but all else being equal, he needs to get a real in-season shot at being a starter. Otherwise he’s liable to get rancorous about management, etc. If we were looking at a significantly competitive season, I’d say he could suck it on that rancor, but with a loosey goosey season as this year should be, give him his shot. When he fails, you save him from crushing disappointment by reminding him he was a badass bullpen guy in the 2nd half of last season, that must be his destiny, and it ain’t no bad thing to be the top set-up man/future closer on a team that’s about to start making regular post-season runs. Booyah.

    And, BAM — Theme from Jaws! What an awesome intro theme! LOVE IT, rbreeze!

  • EQ76

    I have this hunch that Wells and Samardzija will pitch better than Wood & Volstad this preseason and deserve the 2 spots.. but management will want 2 lefties in the rotation and it would be easy to keep Samardzija in the bullpen where he was hightly effective. Volstad to long relief.


  • brittney

    I agree Brett.
    I said it earlier smarj needs to add a pitch or 2 and perfect his command and he will easily be our # 3 guy in a year or two, but for now our main set up guy. Wells to the pen. Coleman (*gag*) AAA along with lpez. The rest are not suited all that well for the rotation and youth movement. All of this is my own opionion. So, 1. Garza 2. Dempster 3. Moholm 4. T. Wood 5. Volstad

  • Mick

    My preference:


    Long-man Volstad, Wells to AAA with Sonnestine, Carpenter, and Lopez.

    Shark’s got the stuff to miss bats and if he can put it together in ST he’ll be a force to reckon with. Volstad would be the 6th man and would fill in for injuries. Wells doesn’t seem crafty or mentally tough enough to hold a spot in any team’s rotation. We may as well send him to AAA and make him prove his craft. If he raises eyebrows maybe we get a bag of shag balls for him otherwise we’ll probably have to resort for a cracked fungo instead.

    • Mike S

      Having the “stuff to miss bats” isn’t what starting pitching is about. Actually, that is basically what being a relief pitcher is about.

      • Mick

        To elaborate, he’s got a great fastball, a good curve/slurve/slider, and ? third pitch. If Wells had the “stuff to miss bats” he’d be a lock for the rotation. As much fun as it is watching ground ball pitchers I want my top-tier starters to K batters, which involves missing bats. In a perfect world there wouldn’t be any relief pitchers, our starters would be able to get the job done.

  • J Wilson

    If opening day was tomorrow, Garza, Dempster, Maholm, Vosltad, Wood.
    –If Samardzija pitches significantly better than Wood or Volstad, give him the 5th spot, otherwise he’s in the 7th or 8th.
    –There is little to no reason why Randy Wells should be in the rotation at this point. If Volstad, Wood, and/or Samardzija pitch poorly and Wells pitches well, then I would accept him pitching in the 5th spot.
    –Sonnanstine, Lopez = AAA.
    –Wells = Long man.

  • Jay Anderson Jr

    Who I hope:

    Who I think:

  • jim

    Have said before, wells has never relieved. Cubs have said he would not be reliever.

  • BleedBlueinWNeb

    just joined Twitter…first feed i’m following: bleacher nation

    • Brett

      Nice. Gracias.

  • Butch Cub

    I certainly believe in giving the youngsters a shot… but let’s see what happens in spring training. Things have a way of working themselves out.