For weeks, it’s been a forgone conclusion that the Cubs would be after free agent starter Shaun Marcum. He’s 30, coming off an injury-filled season, and effective when he’s healthy. Check, check, check. Marcum, for better or worse, is exactly the kind of pitcher the Cubs are looking for. Throw in the Milwaukee connection to the Cubs’ current manager and pitching coach, and you’ve got a near cinch.
Marcum, who turns 31 in December, hasn’t had an ERA over 3.70 in his last four seasons, and his still-decent 1.266 WHIP last year was his highest since 2007. He’s got a career ERA+ of 111, and a K/BB of 2.65. His post-Tommy John surgery WARs are 3.6, 2.8, and 1.4. There’s talent there, even if it is belied by his 85 MPH fastball.
But he managed just 124 innings in 2012, missing a couple months with elbow tightness, and his FIP was 4.10. Given that he’s a previous Tommy John surgery recipient, that’ll be enough to shrink his market, and knock him down into the Cubs’ primary target range.
Opinions are split on whether Marcum can get a two year deal, or whether he’ll have to settle for a one-year “prove it” type deal. It probably depends on how that elbow’s looking (he did appear to be healthy at the end of the year). Ideally, the Cubs could land him on a one-year-plus-option year deal, like the one they gave Paul Maholm last year ($4.75 million plus $6.5 million team option), but I suspect Marcum will cost a little more.
Garza, Samardzija, McCarthy, Marcum, Wood? It’s early, and odds never favor the first guesses you see at a rotation (I’d be surprised if even three of those names are correct come April), but that’s a good rotation with several excellent potential trade chips.
… if everyone is perfectly healthy. Which, with that group, is far from a lock. It might be the best we can realistically hope for, though.