Let’s Talk About Those Back Two Rotation Spots

For the purposes of these Spring Training discussions, we remain under the impression that the first three spots in the rotation – barring injury or trade – are locked up by Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, and Paul Maholm. For the back two spots, Chris Volstad, Jeff Samardzija, Randy Wells, Travis Wood, and Rodrigo Lopez remain under consideration (with a couple others technically, but not really, in the race).

While Spring Training performance is not going to be the sole deciding factor in the rotation decision, it is certainly a part of the competition. On the Spring so far, the numbers shake out thusly:

Volstad – 0.00 ERA, 6 IP, 3 H, 0 BB, 4 K

Samardzija – 3.00 ERA, 6 IP, 3 H, 0 BB, 6 K

Wells – 0.00 ERA, 5.2 IP, 3 H, 0 BB, 1 K

Wood – 20.25 ERA, 2.2 IP, 6 H, 4 BB, 2 K

Lopez – 0.00 ERA, 4 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 3 K

I’m assuming Wood’s numbers jump out at you, and, if they, alone, weren’t enough to suggest Wood is bound for AAA to start the year, his remaining option year will probably do the trick. Things can change, but the odds Wood cracks the rotation to start the year are exceedingly slim.

Wood is trying to remain positive and optimistic, though.

“It’s typical to say it’s early and you’re working out all of the kinks but it’s time to go,” Wood said. “I still have three or four starts left and I have to show what I can do then …. I feel good, the arm feels great, I feel healthy. It’s just time to really get after it.”

As for the other guys, there isn’t much in the way of the numbers to distinguish them. All four are pitching well on the Spring, so, were we deciding today, other factors would have to be considered – with the primary one being “who is the most likely to succeed when the season rolls around?”

Some of the reasons the Cubs might decide Guy A is more likely to succeed in the season than Guy B will be obscured to us. It’s easy for us to say Guy A is throwing better than Guy B, but we don’t know if Guy B is working on a new grip that, when mastered, will transform him into a beast in the Cubs’ eyes. Other reasons – past success in the bigs, overall impression of stuff and stamina, upside, age, future role – are things about which we can at least speak intelligently.

One thing we do know is that “need” is purportedly not going to factor into the decision. By “need,” I refer specifically to Jeff Samardzija being a solid candidate for the late innings in the bullpen – might the Cubs prefer to keep Jeff there, and let one of the other starters take a rotation spot, even if Jeff is just ever-so-slightly better?

Nah.

“Need isn’t going to dictate the decision whether [Samardzija] makes the starting rotation or not,” Sveum said. “Anybody’s need is always starting pitching. If he proves he can handle that, it’s not going to be a need because of what our bullpen needs.”

So, it is then fair to assume that it’s a relatively even four-horse race for the final two spots, with the possible exception of Lopez, who doesn’t have a “future” with the Cubs. Then again, one a one-year deal, you can imagine why the Cubs’ front office wouldn’t mind seeing Lopez somehow put together a great first half in the rotation – he becomes great trade bait at that point. The chances that would happen, of course, are quite slim. But, given that the Cubs could easily stash two of Wells, Samardzija, and Volstad in the bullpen or AAA, it can’t totally be ruled out.

It will be an interesting two weeks.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

88 responses to “Let’s Talk About Those Back Two Rotation Spots”

  1. Jordan

    Can someone please tell me why wood was the center piece in the Marshall trade…dude seems like hot garbage

    1. Andrew

      Youre basing this off of 2.2 innings of work in spring training. Calm down.

    2. Noah

      So you’re judging a flyball/strikeout pitcher on the basis of two appearances in the Cactus League? I think Wood should start in AAA due to him having an option left, but you can’t base anything off of spring training stats.

      1. Joe

        I’ve seen a lot of this argument on the site: spring training means nothing, you can’t base anything on these games, blah blah blah. So why have spring training at all? Eh, that’s a grandiose question. I suppose the answer is so that players have a chance to warm up off the off-season. But why is there anything resembling a “competition” for spots when, according to this argument, the games and the stats mean nothing?

        That’s not to say that we can fully evaluate a pitcher based on 2.2 innings of work, especially in ST. (That said, T. Wood has had more than 2.2 innings, and in that time he’s been competitive in a competition between average-to-middling pitchers, until he went awful. There is *some* value to his performance. Just don’t want to overblow it.)

        1. Norm

          *STATS* mean nothing.
          Process means something.

        2. Kyle

          “I’ve seen a lot of this argument on the site: spring training means nothing, you can’t base anything on these games, blah blah blah. So why have spring training at all?
          Eh, that’s a grandiose question. I suppose the answer is so that players have a chance to warm up off the off-season.”

          Exactly. Really, it’s mostly for the starting pitchers. Everyone else could do just fine with a couple of weeks of practices and a few warm-up games.

          “But why is there anything resembling a “competition” for spots when, according to this argument, the games and the stats mean nothing?”

          Because sometimes you have to lie to athletes to get the most out of them.

          ‘If you perform, you might have a spot’ goes over better than ‘You are here to fill out space while we get our pitchers warmed up. If we don’t have any useful prospects who need your spot in Iowa, maybe we’ll let you fill a roster spot down there.’

          1. Joe

            @Norm: By “process”, do you mean watching how the player handles themselves during ST?

            @Kyle: LOL. And I can believe this. Haven’t watched nearly enough ST and tracked what happens afterward to have my own feel for things.

            1. Noah

              I think the year I learned spring training means nothing was 2005. Nomar absolutely tore up the Cactus League. I think he batted .500 or right near it. Then, to start the year, he was ice cold and tore his groin before he got a chance to get going.

          2. DocWimsey

            Also, spring training dates are an anachronism. Before Marvin Miller and the players union, ballplayers were not ballplayers during the winter. They didn’t have off-season workout routines or training regimens: they had to work some sinecure job or another. Nolan Ryan made note of that in his HOF speech: he explicitly thanked Miller for allowing Ryan to become a year-round baseball player.

            So, a big part of ST was to get the flab off of the players and get them into game shape. That’s not necessary anymore: but MLB never reduced spring training. (And, no, nobody shows up “out of shape” these days, at least not compared to how everybody showed up in 1970.)

            1. Joe

              Very, very interesting point. So if ST is anachronistic, what would be an appropriate level of prep and training? How does this compare to the NFL Preseason?

              1. DocWimsey

                That is a really good question and one that I’m not qualified to answer. However, I do remember that 25 years ago (1987!) people already were saying that players did not need anything like the one month of exhibition games. That was the year that owners colluded to not sign free agents, and the unsigned guys were prohibited from signing until May. When they did return, they picked up as they always were playing with no spring training. A couple of others like Andre Dawson missed most of spring training, but also just jumped right into action.

                However, most of the names involved were “cream of the crop” players, so perhaps they were not representative of how guys do with little/no spring training.

                1. Joe

                  Yeah, I’m sure there’s a world of difference between veterans and guys just trying to make their first ML team.

  2. willis

    In a perfect world, find a taker for Dempster and all would be right. For now, I’m still thinking Shark can help what is going to be a shaky pen. If Wells and Volstad continue to pitch this well, I think those two take the spots.

  3. Eric

    He was not the centerpiece. Ronald Torreyes was. A guy who plays great 2B defense and has an ability to make contact that is off the charts good. Don’t let anyone tell you Wood was the centerpiece. He was not.

    1. Jordan

      Okay that makes more sense thanks for the info

    2. Andrew

      nobody knows what the “centerpiece” of the trade was but theo and jed. all three players could turn out to be good major leaguers. Wood has pitched 2.2 innings in Arizona where we know breaking balls are very ineffective. He has 4 more years i believe of cost control so stop panicking. He probably won’t start this year, but it’s ok.

    3. MightyBear

      He’s right

  4. SirCub

    I really like the idea of getting all these “role players” (No. 5 starters (Lopez), Lefty bullpen guys (Miller), etc.) on one year deals, and then potentially trading them away to teams in contention for a piece or two at the deadline. Is this something that other team’s do all the time? Like, plan ahead and stuff?

    1. Featherstone

      Can’t tell if actual question or very thinly veiled remark on cubs poor front office management for as long as we can remember.

      1. SirCub

        Both?

        1. Featherstone

          You mean trading away veterans like Ted Lilly for prospects and Blake DeWitt? No, good teams dont do that.

  5. Dan

    I hope the pitching continues like this for the rest of spring and hope Wood gets better. Its an awesome problem to have. Competition is bringing out the best in these guys. I’m getting real excited. Imagine if the Cubs actually finished above .500 this year. I think that would be a real accomplishment by Theo and gang. Don’t you agree?

    1. Joe

      Agree!

  6. Noah

    In my opinion, Wood is struggling because he’s a flyball/strikeout pitcher pitching in the Cactus League. It’s just not a good place to pitch, although I agree he should start in Iowa due to him having an option left.

    And Ronald Torreyes was not the centerpiece. No one in baseball would say he was the centerpiece of that deal. He’s an interesting prospect, but has absolutely no power potential and doesn’t steal a lot of bases. Yeah, he has good contact skills, but if you don’t hit for power and don’t walk it’s just empty average. And Torreyes hasn’t even played above Low A Ball. If he’s still putting up those gaudy batting averages when he reaches AA, I’ll get excited. But Torreyes is probably a 50/50 shot at best to even reach the Majors.

    1. David

      Torreyes may not have been the centerpiece, but the guy has been pretty incredible so far. He hit 356/.399/.457 as an 18 year old in the Midwest league. I’m anxious to see what he does at Daytona this year. If he can put even a little meat on his bones and start shooting some hits into the gaps for doubles and triples he will shoot up the prospect charts in a hurry.

      1. Noah

        I agree that Torreyes’ contact skills are exciting. The question is if he’ll be able to either draw walks on top of them or add doubles power. But I think Cub fans are doing what they often do with a new prospect we traded for, and talking about him like he’ll be competing for the starting second base gig next year.

  7. Kyle

    Spring training results don’t matter. Chant it with me like a mantra. Especially at this point. Wood could look awesome in his next start and any of the other three guys could get whacked around. There’s really no good reason to be basing anything off these “performances.”

    This rotation construction really does fascinate me though.

    The Cubs have two problems they want to avoid.

    First, they certainly don’t want a repeat of last year, where they thought they had enough starting pitcher, but a couple of injuries turned it into a freak show at the back of the rotation. If they’d had solid pitchers back there, they probably could have been .500 last year.

    But the other problem is that we have a lot of guys who *need* to be in a major league rotation in order to realize their value as assets. I’m going to call them HUSYPs (High Upside, Sorta-Young Pitchers). Wood, Samardzija and Volstad (and I’ll include Wells if I absolutely have to) all fit into this category. They could become solid middle of the rotation starters with years of team control left, which would make them incredibly valuable either to use or as trade chits. But there’s nothing except time in a big-league rotation that can help them realize that potential. They are too old and accomplished to be learning anything in AAA.

    That’s why, for my money, you have to find a way for at least three of the HUSYPs to get into the rotation. Since everyone seems healthy, I think you need to trade someone. Assuming the right Garza deal doesn’t materialize, that leaves you with trading Dempster.

    There’s really not that much to gain from keeping Dempster at the expense of one of our HUSYPs. The only upside to starting Dempster is that he might rebound and improve his trade value. But at 35, he’s just as likely to fall apart and ruin his trade value, and even at his best he’s not going to command much more than a C prospect.

    Crazy thought: If you decide you can’t trust Marmol, maybe Dempster goes back to closing?

    1. Noah

      Agree on spring training stats meaning nothing.

      Regarding trading Dempster, he has 10/5 rights, so he can veto a trade. Putting him at closer would kill his value as well, as a team trading for him that wanted him to start would then need to stretch him out midseason. Dempster might also get more valuable as the season goes along, as injuries or a surprise contender can make a solid mid-rotation starter more appealing.

      However, I disagree that the Cubs pitchers would have their progress stifled in AAA. There are really only two Cubs in the starter mix that can be sent down: Wells and Wood each have an option left. I think Wood in particular could benefit from time in AAA where he could work on a cutter. And Wells just is what he is: a back end of the rotation starter.

      While I think Shark will be a disaster in the rotation, you might as well give him the shot and take advantage of the option years of Wells and Wood. They’ll both get their shots in the rotation over the course of the season, whether it be due to trades, ineffectiveness or injury.

    2. Andrew

      We all want to trade dempster but thats not gonna happen for two big reasons. First is that nobody will pay very much for him since he is owed a lot and a trade doesnt make sense.

      And the much much much more important is that Dempster is a 5 and 10 player so can veto any trade. He loves it here and doesn’t want to move and doesn’t have to if he doesn’t want. Everyone has to stop talking about trading Dempster because it’s simply not going to happen. I’d say if anybody gets traded from the starting candidates, it’s Wells although I doubt they will get enough for him for it to be worth it. I think Wood will be in AAA and Wells will either be there or in the ‘pen since he has less upside as a starter.

      1. Kyle

        Then cut him. I’m really not that worried about what Dempster can bring back in a trade. It’s not going to be anything important no matter what.

        I just don’t want him soaking up a rotation spot at the expense of someone with the potential to impact the team’s long-term future.

        1. Noah

          So you want the Cubs to pay Dempster $14 million to play for someone else?

          To make that make sense, you’d have to have extreme evidence that having Travis Wood and/or Randy Wells pitching in Iowa this season would in fact prevent them from meeting their potential, whatever that potential may be. Do you have any evidence on that front, or is it just your unsubstantiated belief that having pitchers who are ready for the Majors playing in AAA stunts their development?

          1. Kyle

            Ryan Dempster is going to make $14 million regardless. It’s a sunk cost, and that payment should have nothing to do with your decision.

            The decision is simply: Who do I want pitching for the Chicago Cubs? Travis Wood or Ryan Dempster?

            And because Dempster has no long-term future and is not likely to accrue any significant trade value, then the answer is pretty easy.

            1. Noah

              So, essentially, because you’d prefer to watch Travis Wood on TV this season, you think the Cubs should dump $14 million down the drain? Calling $14 million a sunk cost must be really easy to do about other people’s money.

              Again, do you have ANY evidence that putting Travis Wood in the minors would hurt his development?

              1. Kyle

                Calling a $14 million dollar commitment a sunk cost is easy because I went to college and they taught me a little about economics while I was there.

                The Cubs are paying $14 million no matter what. There is no scenario (other than convincing another team to pick up some of it) where they don’t pay $14 million. So when choosing between scenarios, there’s no reason for $14 million to enter into it. If there were a scenario where the Cubs paid $14 million and one where they didn’t, then it would be relevant. But there isn’t.

                And no, I don’t have any “evidence” that Wood pitching in AAA will hurt his development. But I think the idea that players’ development is best helped by playing at appropriate levels to challenge them is universal enough that I don’t need to cite chapter and verse.

                1. TWC

                  Kyle 3:16

                2. Featherstone

                  I also went to college and minored in Economics and Dempster’s contract is not a sunk cost in the strictest of sense. Yes the money is spent, but you are also assuming he has zero value to the Cubs or on the trade market which is absolutely false. Should Dempster bounce back to his career averages he would be our 2nd or 3rd best pitcher and has been quite good at eating innings. Also should he pitch to career averages he would garner at least some value at the deadline in which case you net either a decent prospect back or at the very least some salary relief in which case you are not spending 14 million, you have just spent less. Dempster has value to this team and in Baseball and it would be completely foolish to cut him when you can just as easily send Wood to the minors on his option.

                  1. Drew

                    I agree with both of you, just on different parts of your debate.
                    I agree with Kyle’s point that the $14mil is a paycheck youre going to write regardless, so that shouldnt factor into the decision.However, I dont think cutting Dempster is the answer when you could just as easily use the option Wood has left (although I dont think Kyle is actually saying thats the best option).

                  2. Kyle

                    You seem to be a little confused about what I’m saying.

                    Dempster can have tremendous value to the Cubs, but his contract is still a sunk cost. It’s a cost they’ve already committed to and can’t rescind. The value he brings to the Cubs, great or small, doesn’t change the fact that his contract is the textbook definition of a sunk cost (with the caveat that we could, at some point, convince someone to take some of it on).

                    But that’s only relevant in response to the argument that we can’t get rid of Dempster because we don’t want to “pay him $14 million to pitch for someone else.”

                    If it comes down to a strict decision between Dempster and Wood, then the Cubs have two choices (I’m oversimplifying, of course. They have all kinds of choices):

                    1) Pay the two about $14 million this year and have Wood pitch
                    2) Pay the two about $14 million this year and have Dempster pitch.

                    The cost of the two options is the same, so the decision should be made for reasons other than cost.

                    Now, Dempster’s value to the Cubs is the original point I was arguing, and that’s separate from the “sunk cost” definition.

                    I find very little value in having Dempster pitch for the Cubs this year. I can understand why others disagree.

                    I don’t think you can or should expect a 35-year-old pitcher to be pitching to his career averages. In the best case scenario, I think he can be a league-average starting pitcher who will command a middling, C prospect or two at the trade deadline.

                    I think Travis Wood can establish himself as a legitimate, above-average major-league starter.

                    Given that Wood is under team control a lot longer, I think giving him a chance to show what he can do is a lot more important than giving Dempster a chance to show what he can do.

                    1. DocWimsey

                      Really, the only value I can see in pitching Demp this year is showcasing him for a trade. If you look at the sunk cost as “we were going to spend that anyway” and eat most of his remaining salary (and if Demp is pitching well), then a contending team with a pitching injury might shed a decent prospect for him. (In theory, someone might take on his whole contract: and in theory, Elvis might still be alive: just add “conspiracy” in front of the “theory” each time….)

                      However, if no such trade can be made, then we have to ask how pitching Demp instead of Wood will increase the team’s chances of being in the 2014 playoffs.

                    2. SirCub

                      I know I’ll get laughed at with this, but what about which player better helps the team win and compete in the division in 2012? Are we just throwing that out the window?

                    3. DocWimsey

                      The 2012 Cubs are more like a sunk ship than a sunk cost. The current roster does not have the talent to compete for the division title, the WC or even the Bud Selig Memorial 7th Wild Card slot.

                      If Theo & Hoyer can turn this into a competitive franchise by 2014, then I’ll be impressed.

                    4. SirCub

                      I don’t disagree about the talent. Alls I’m saying is that until April 4th, the Cubs are tied for first place. Put  the best team you can out on the field and see what happens. Now after they go 4-17 in April, sure dismantle the team and sell it for parts.

                    5. Featherstone

                      While I agree that we should be developing our younger pitchers especially those with upside i.e. Wood, I think you are discounting the value of pitching at triple A. Yes, Triple A is not the majors, but it also allows the pitcher to work on developing a new pitch, tweaking mechanics, or just working on gameday situations without having to worry about looking over his shoulder at other players competing for his rotation spot.

                      I firmly believe that Wood can become a #3-4 pitcher in our rotation for years to come, but he clearly doesn’t have it all figured out yet as evidenced by his performance last year and early showings this spring. Start him in Triple A and if he performs well call him up mid-season when hopefully either Garza or Dempster is traded.

                      Lastly, we are likely, but certainly not guaranteed to be paying Dempster his full 14 million this year. There is still a small, but not negligible chance that we trade him at the deadline for either prospects or salary relief.

                    6. FromFenwayPahk

                      I am finding this thread really interesting. Thanks.

                      IMHO, each guys value (including Dempster’s) here is in what they contribute to depth, too. Someone(s) in a five man rotation gets shut down during any season. You need eight big league ready starters. Not five.
                      Dempster’s cost (sunk or no) is measured in money. But, he also (pardon) takes up space–in a way that younger guys don’t. That is a choke point. You can’t store him somewhere while you wait to see how the season unwinds…or can you?

                    7. Andrew

                      The question is what pitcher helps the Cubs more. You can say the cubs have no talent this year all you want but they are going to try to put the best team on the field every year as long as it doesn’t hurt the team in the long run. That being said, Dempster will be the better pitcher this year. You can point to his bad year last year but then you have to look at Woods numbers last year which were worse. Dempster has so far had a better spring and has a better reputation of pitching well so everything points to him having a better season this year.

                      The other important point is that you can store Wood in the minors until needed which you can’t do with Dempster. Dempster will not be traded, he is untouchable because of his service time and loves being a Cub.

                      So what options are there. Cut Dempster and lose any of his services this year, and start Wood. Or start Dempster and leave Wood in the minors from which he can be activated at any time. The decision is more than obvious. You start Dempster, and then if he becomes ineffective, put him on the DL for a mystery injury or maybe even back to the bullpen.

                      As has been mentioned, there is no reason pitching in AAA is detrimental to Wood’s progress or the Cubs chances in 2013. He clearly can benefit from work on some things as evidenced this spring. Dempster’s contract is essentially irrelevant apart from the fact that his trade value is extremely low even if he did agree to be traded which he won’t.

                  3. ferrets_bueller

                    They must have taught you the wrong definition of sunk cost, because thats exactly what it is.

                    On the flip side, dumping dempster is absolutely stupid.  But he is a sunk cost, there is no argument…as is every other player with a guaranteed contract.

  8. Dave

    I disagree. I think Wood was the main piece in the trade. A back of the rotation starter under control for several years for a very good middle reliever in the last year of his contract sound about right.
    If the Reds thought that highly of Torreyes I doubt he would have been included in the deal. He is still an undersized middle infielder who has to priove he can hit as he advances thru the minors.

  9. Sinnycal

    I’ve been predicting Shark and Volstad since prior to spring training. Even if they all had identical spring performances, Wood’s option makes him the easiest to stash. His poor performance thus far only makes the decsion easier to justify. Shark has the most upside and I think they REALLY want to see him finally succeed as the starter he was drafted to be. I feel like he will have to play himself out of being given that opportunity. Then between Volstad and Wells, I think basically they need to find out what they really have in Volstad. Wells is pretty much at his ceiling. You know with him you have a great back of the rotation option, but if Volstad can be more than that at a younger age, that’s worth finding out. Wells will still be there as a dependable sixth starter if one of Volstad or Shark doesn’t pan out. And you really, really have to hope that one of them does.

    1. Joe

      Whether or not “they” want him to have a good crack at being a starter, I think *he* wants it, and wants it bad. If this year’s a sunk year, might as well give him the reins and see what he can do. If he rocks it, everyone’s happy except the guy he pushed out of the rotation. If he stinks it up, then he’ll have to suck it up and accept that he can be a badass bullpen guy… or, if he doesn’t accept it, he proves that he’s an attitude problem that Theo/Jed can hopefully get some trade value out of with a team willing to give him *another* try.

  10. Spencer

    This is helpful to my contest entry.

  11. Richard Nose

    I need some background on ‘Shark’…the name. Is this legit? Does he know it’s his nickname?

    1. hcs
    2. Joe

      Yes, it was his nickname at Notre Dame. Wikipedia sez: “Several of Samardzija’s Notre Dame baseball teammates affectionately nicknamed him “Shark” early during his career at Notre Dame.[16]“

  12. Andrew

    I think Wood still has a chance albeit a smaller one of getting into the rotation. He is left handed which the Cubs are putting a lot of value in this year so I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a longer “leash” this spring although he’ll have to really impress the coaching staff and soon because based on performance and what has been said, it looks like Bosio really likes Volstad and Sveum really likes Samardzija. Maybe I’m not looking closely enough but I haven’t seen the high praise directed towards Wells and Wood as I have those two. It seems clear to me V and Shark will be in the rotation to start the season.

  13. ferrets_bueller

    Samardizja needs to be one of the 5.  It would be absolutely stupid NOT to give him a shot.

    Along similar thinking, same goes for Volstad. Both of these guys have to potential to be top of the rotation pitchers, #2  starters.  Something that definitely cannot be said of Wells, as well as Wood, to an extent- his ceiling possibly could be a 2, but most likely a 3, tops.

    1. wax_eagle

      Yes, he needs at least 10-15 consecutive starts so that we know what he has.

  14. Tarheel Cub

    All things equal, I hope the spots go to Shark and Volstead. Perhaps Wells and Lopez can shore up the bullpen and spot start. Wells has been average at best as a starter, we know what he can do – why not give someone else a chance. Wells has been unhittable in the spring before, but that did not translate into regular season production. I think we can really have an excellent staff if these guys adapt to their roles.

    1. Noah

      I think Shark is very likely to be an unmitigated disaster as a starter in an experiment that will last 10 starts max… but you might as well try him at it. If it doesn’t work, the Cubs are going to be bad this season anyways and you can put him in the pen after that.

      Volstad has to be in. His stuff doesn’t play as well for relief, he has the highest ceiling, and he’s out of options. Just put Wells and Wood in the minors to start the year. They’ll get their turns up with the big league club at some point, either due to injury, ineffectiveness or trade.

      1. Andrew

        I highly disagree about Samardzija. To me has gained control of his pitches since he turned it around last year and the coaches have had nothing but high praise for his conditioning and stuff this spring. My guess is that by the end of the year either Shark or Big V will be higher regarded than Maholm and quite possibly Dempster as well.

        1. Noah

          We’ve heard the praises of the coaches before, though. Every time they’ve tried him at starter we’ve heard about this. The coaches love him one year, and he’s competing for a starting spot, then hate him the next.

          None of the scouting guys like him at all. They all view him as a one pitch guy who lacks an above average second pitch, much less a respectable change up as a third pitch.

          I hope he succeeds for the Cubs’ sake. I just expect him to fail terribly.

          1. Joe

            I agree on all counts except that I have more faith in Shark this year. I wouldn’t put any money on it, though. :-P

        2. D.G.Lang

          One thing that I’ve learned over the years is that it takes about five years of specializing in a particular skill before one can make an accurate determination about how far one’s skill will take him. It is usually in the fourth or fifth year that everything begins to click and things happen ‘naturally’.

          Obvoiusly, one dedicated to developing a particular skill develops faster if they spend the entire year dedicated to developing that skill as opposed to being one trying to develop two different skil sets at the same time.

          I’ve observed this several times during my career(s) both for others and for myself.

          I once earned my living as a musician and I was totally dedicated to that field despite not being ‘gifted’ in that area. In later life, I moved into data processing and worked m way through all of the possible positions in operations and programming before eventually owning my own consulting company.

          The point being that it does take a certain amount of time to determine one’s true and top development level posssibilities. One day when things finally click one starts doing things automatically when before that time it took consious effort to get lesser results.

      2. JR

        Unmitigated disaster sounds about right to me. And just when he had gotten over himself enough to be a decent 7th or 8th inning man — and perhaps on the road to becoming a dominant closer. There is a lot of irrational love for Samardzija in the fan base for whatever reason: his upside, his Notre Dame football pedigree and whatever else makes people forget that he does not seem to have the pitches or mental toughness that’s necessary for a starting pitcher. I mean, this isn’t a guy who has been denied the chance to start — over and over. Anyway, since the new brass seems as enamored with him as the old regime once was, I really hope I’m wrong and – if I’m not – I hope he can pick up where he left off as a reliever.

        As to Wells, Cubs fans seem to be irrationally dismissive. He keeps us in games, he does not disintegrate under pressure, and he’s savvy enough to pitch through a lineup a few times. Pitching is not a skills competition, it’s about managing the game and getting people out. I really don’t see how he’s very different from Dempster, someone who doesn’t throw that hard or have a high strikeout rate but induces a lot of ground balls and manages a good game. I hope he makes the rotation.

    2. ferrets_bueller

      You’re pro-Volstead? Why would anyone want to bring back prohibition? :P

      1. DocWimsey

        Because bootlegging is more lucrative than science? 8-)

        1. ferrets_bueller

          Only for a select few.  Think of how much better shape our nation as a whole would be better off if the money thrown away in the war on drugs had been applied elsewhere, or how many deaths would have been averted.  The only people for whom it is more lucrative is those whom it should not be.

  15. ottoCub

    No matter who rounds out the starting rotation, I am really loving that the Cubs have options! Remember last year, when the question was, “Who might have the talent to step up and fill the #4 and #5 starter spots?” This year we’re asking, “Which of these 5 guys is going to best fill this role?” Wow. What a difference a year makes!

  16. RicoSanto

    Samardzja and Volstad, Wells in the pen, if it does not work you can flip flop later.V for Z Good, Wood for Marshall BAD I agree with Andrew , Samardza can be a 1 or 2 I was saying all winter he ws the dark horse. He went to Mesa after Thansgiving pitching for this chance.Sveum loves him he is strong and I dont think his arm will go out. One scout said he reminds him of a young Verlander

    1. Featherstone

      Young Verlander comparison for Shark seems a bit much as Verlander has quite a bit more life on his fastball. I’m all for Shark and his potential, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

    2. Drew

      While I feel Wood was the centerpiece of that deal, Calling it “Wood for Marshall” is a little unfair.

      However, if those two were the only players exchanged, I’m still ok with it.

    3. Norm

      “One scout said he reminds him of a young Verlander”
      I hope that scout works for the Cardinals and has a lot of input into their decision making.

  17. JustSwain

    Listen, Norm, we’ve all done it. Looked at a player and predicted his demise, or trade, or whatever, but you have gone past not liking the look of a player straight to the “I hate this guy” side of things. If you are a Cubs fan, its time to back off. The last thing that you want is to get angry every five days if this guy makes the rotation. Jeff has worked hard this off season, and started to work a Cutter into his pitches. He pitched very well last season as a late inning reliever, which is often the path that starting pitchers take before showing sucess. His fastball can top 99 mph, but he has started taking just a tiny something off it to get control. Your personal feelings aside, he’s a better pitcher than you are making him out to be, and he is likely at this point in mid-march to be on the Cubs rotation. Time to stop hating and start learning about the guy and what he can do. You can’t just make things up to hate him, like “None of the scouting guys like him at all. They all view him as a one pitch guy who lacks an above average second pitch, much less a respectable change up as a third pitch.” Yet there is evidence that some scouts like him quite a bit. I personally have the same feelings for LaHair, as you do for Jeff. Spring training has vindicated me so far, and the fact that he can’t lay off high fastballs has me sweating, and yet he is going to be the Cubs starting first baseman. As a result, when he comes to bat these days I root for him, and am disappointed when he doesn’t do well. Why? Because the teams success is more important to me than the vindication of my personal feelings. You feel strongly about Smardzilja, maybe you just can’t spell his name, or hate that stupid hair cut and unfortunate facial hair. Stats don’t agree with your argument, scouts don’t have a 100% consensus about your argument, and performance isn’t agreeing with your argument. Time to bite your tounge, and see if you can start liking this guy.

    1. Norm

      Do you have the right guy?
      My stance on Samardzija is start him, nothing to lose.
      But “a young Verlander”? Riiiight.

      1. JustSwain

        Your right, that comment was for Noah, sorry. Honest mistake, with the same first letter, same number of letters in your name… Noah if you read this, that post was for you.

    2. Noah

      Yeah, you were talking to me. And let’s look at Shark’s peripherals from last year, as a reliever throwing his hardest. The 8.90 K/9 rate is good, not great for a reliever. And the walk rate? 5.11. How was he successful last year? Unsustainable strand and HR/FB rates. Those are likely to be especially unsustainable as a starter. And he still has yet to be through an order twice.

      And really? You’re betting on Samardzija and against LaHair because of a week and half of spring training games? Spring training means nothing. I’m not saying LaHair will succeed. I’m just saying I couldn’t care less what anyone is batting right now.

      And I will root for Samardzija to succeed, because if he does it would be a great boon for the Cubs. And I think he should be given a spot in the rotation to start the season. I just happen to think he’s going to fail miserably. I hope I’m wrong. But I think his (undeserved) draft position and the fact that a lot of Chicagoans have a soft spot for Notre Dame have repeatedly led to Samardzija’s potential being overstated.

  18. Kyle

    “I know I’ll get laughed at with this, but what about which player better helps the team win and compete in the division in 2012? Are we just throwing that out the window?”

    In my opinion, the answer to that question is also Wood>Dempster, but I know that’s going to be unpopular.

    1. mrp

      Honestly, I really don’t think it will matter all that much for 2012 either way you go. If I’m forced to choose Wood or Dempster, I have to go with Dempster. If nothing else you need to showcase what he has left to potential trading partners. I know there are several “ifs” in terms of trading him, but it is still much more worthwhile then just dropping him as you have suggested earlier. Also, Demp is a good veteran to have around to help mentor the younger pitchers on the staff.

    2. Andrew

      why do you think Wood is going to be a better starter than demp this year? Is it because of how Dempster performed last season, because if thats the case, take a long look at Wood’s numbers from last year. The fact is that Dempster can’t be stowed away in AAA for a rainy day whereas Wood can. That means having Dempster pitch in the rotation is the best thing for keeping our starting pitching depth. Even if you think Dempster is better in the pen, if he does that, he wont be stretched out to pitch in the rotation in case of an injury. The cubs should start their 5 best starters and Dempster is one of those 5.

  19. Kyle

    Uh-oh, Dempster heard me mention that I was talking about cutting him and is so upset that he’s getting smacked around pretty good. 2 IP, 7 H, 2 ER and still two on with none out in the third.

    1. Andrew

      Wow, youre gonna get worked up over this outing when the guy you want to replace him gave up 5 earned runs in 1/3 of an inning?

      1. Kyle

        That’s the joke!

        1. Mrp

          Kyle – Master chess player and full time forum troll.

  20. Edwin

    I think Wells is easily the 4th starter. He’s had 2 good seasons, and one bad season in which he was injured. When healthy, he’s been a very effective starter. He’s only 29, so it’s not like he’s about to fall off a cliff age wise. He far and away has the best track record of the pitchers competing for a back of the rotation spot.

    I also like Wood’s chances as the 5th starter. He seems to have the most upside of the remaining candidates. He’s left-handed, which makes him a better fit for pitching at Wrigley.

    I think Samardzjia walks too many batters, and won’t be able to maintain his higher strikeouts as a starter.

    I don’t think Volstad will ever develop. He’s had 3 full seasons now, and still hasn’t “figured it out”. I hope something clicks, and if can get his ground ball rate up he could edge out Wood, but I don’t see that happening.

    1. Noah

      I think they’ll go Volstad as the 4 and Samardzija as the 5 to start the year, with Wells being the first of him and Wood called up. Not because Wells is better than Wood, just because of service time considerations.

  21. dick

    I had the misfortune of watching Travis Wood yesterday in Mesa. Two walks, a hit batter, followed by 4 shots. I could not have been less impressed. Wells looked very good. I didn’t see Volstad pitch, so I can’t comment on him. Samardzjia looked o.k. in the game I saw him pitch, but he wasn’t sharp. It will be Wells and Volstad as the final two starters, with Samardzija in the pen. I agree that Trevor Miller will be the other lefty in the pen.