Yesterday the Cubs inked their second starting pitcher of the offseason, right-handed swing-man Scott Feldman, formerly of the Rangers. There are a number of reasons to be optimistic about his future, despite the modest commitment he required ($6 million, plus up to $1 million in incentives, on a one-year deal). Cubs GM Jed Hoyer made certain to speak to most of those reasons, and Feldman offered his own thoughts on coming to the Cubs.
- On Feldman’s role going forward: “[Feldman] did sort of have one foot in, one foot out [of the rotation]. I think he felt like he was looking over his shoulder a lot. If he made a bad start, he might not necessarily make another one or might be in the bullpen. We certainly gave him the reassurance here: ‘You’re going to be a starting pitcher. You’re going to be in the rotation.’ [That] means a lot. It’s hard to perform when you’re always constantly worried about [your] job.” Now, Feldman was not going to sign with a team that was not going to give him a chance to be in the rotation. And I have no doubt that Hoyer is sincere when he says that Feldman is here to be a starter. But there’s a subtle, important difference between guaranteeing a guy that he’ll be a 32-start starter for the entirety of the upcoming season (if healthy), and saying that a guy is going to be in the rotation. As Hoyer has mentioned many times, a team needs more than five starting pitchers – even with six guys, all will get a sizeable chunk of starts. This is all to say, there is nothing inconsistent with what Hoyer said, and with the Cubs bringing in another guy to “be in the rotation.” There might be six guys who are regularly rotated into the rotation, depending on the health of the group.
- On Feldman’s hard luck 2012 season: “I think last year, if you look inside his numbers, the numbers were not what he probably hoped, but they were pretty misleading. If you look at his ratios and different underlying numbers, he’s one of the most unlucky pitchers in the game last year. While it wasn’t his best year, it certainly wasn’t nearly as bad as the ERA on the page says it was.” You can see more of that argument here.
- On why Feldman, specifically: “We always liked his stuff,” Hoyer said. “He gets ground balls, he’s got a really good walk-to-strikeout ratio and he’s pitched in a very difficult environment. He pitched in the American League and pitched in Texas and that’s hard. We felt he was a guy, given his stuff, given his age and given the ability to come to the National League and not pitch in Texas, we felt it was a great opportunity for us to add a quality arm.”
- On whether these one-year deals are the only types the Cubs will consider this offseason: “It’s so early in the offseason, it’s hard to really assess that kind of question. Two of the main guys we targeted going into the Winter were Baker and Feldman. We felt like both guys were very similar in that we thought they could benefit coming to the National League. We thought they both have some upside left. They’re both still young. They were the two guys we really focused on [with] one-year deals. Whether we would add a guy on a multiyear commitment, I think that depends on the player and the opportunity for us.” Hoyer did say a couple weeks ago that the Cubs would, initially, be going hard after a couple players they’d targeted from the get go, so I do tend to believe him that Baker and Feldman were *the* guys that the Cubs wanted (for which they should get plenty of plaudits if either or both break out in 2013). And he’s right – it’s still so very early. There are not only many free agents still out there, but a variety of trade possibilities.
- On adding to the rotation, specifically: “We’re still going to continue to look for talent. If that talent is in the rotation, then we wouldn’t consider ourselves done. We would certainly add someone else. But we’re excited about the two guys we’ve added so far and we think they’ll provide a lot of quality innings for us. As far as where the rotation stands right now, we’re still looking to get better, still looking to add talent all over the team.” About what you’d expect him to say, and this was discussed earlier today.
- On the rest of the offseason: “We’re certainly not done with our offseason. Whether we’re coming off a 101-loss season or coming off a 90-plus-win season, you’re always trying to find value on the free-agent market, and we feel like both Baker and Feldman provide [that]. Our approach is not going to change based on the previous year. You’re always looking to find guys that you feel can outperform their contract.” … and guys who can add wins to the win column, right?
And from Feldman:
- On coming to the Cubs: “The Cubs were like a dream scenario for me. Getting to play for an organization with that type of history, in a city like Chicago with the great fans.” The one year “prove it” deal was also probably part of the reason the Cubs were so attractive.
- On starting with the Cubs, versus relieving: “That was definitely something I’ve wanted to do my whole career, and for them to give me the go-ahead on that and let me know that was in their plans from the get-go was something that immediately made me interested in coming here.”
- On returning to his breakout 2009 season: “I’m pretty confident I can get back to that level of success. That was the year when everything started clicking for me. It was the first time in my career I was getting regular work in the starting rotation and got into a groove. I got a lot of confidence getting out there every five days and knowing what my routine would be. I think judging from that season compared to the season I just went through, I feel I’m a better pitcher now. The results [in 2012] were a mixed bag for me — I had some good, some bad. I think confidence-wise in all my pitches, I’m able to do more now than I was in 2009. I hope the results will show that.”
- On being viewed as a possible flippable asset: “That’s out of my control. I hope that I can pitch here this year and do well and stay here for a long time. But that kind of stuff’s out of my control. They’re going to do what’s best for the team, not only this year, but for the long-term. I’m just glad that I’m here and consider myself lucky to be a part of this organization.” What a great answer. He must have been prepared for that one.