Last year around this time, the Seattle Mariners surprisingly let a pitcher go, who was promptly scooped up by the Chicago Cubs. That pitcher was Shawn Camp, who went on to be one of the team’s MVPs (per Dale Sveum, anyway), and then received a healthy raise going into 2013.
This year, the Mariners are set to surprisingly let another pitcher – Jon Garland – go, by way of informing him yesterday that he wasn’t assured of making the roster out of Spring Training. Garland has the right to opt out of his deal with the Mariners as of today, and he is expected to do so.
Would the Cubs have interest in picking up the Mariners’ scraps once again?
Phil Rogers thinks it’s possible, at least insofar as you can’t really rule out the Cubs on anyone who comes available this month. (I agree, though I hope you can rule them out of the Chone Figgins sweepstakes …. )
Presently, the Cubs have five arms in the rotation – Samardzija/Jackson/Feldman/Wood/Villanueva – and six arms in the bullpen – Marmol/Fujikawa/Russell/Camp/Rondon/Bowden. There is a spot for one more arm, and the Cubs have indicated that they’ll continue to scour the waiver wire (or technical free agents like Garland) for that final arm, but they can fill the spot internally if need be.
Is Garland worth taking a chance on as that final arm? Is he better than Cory Wade, Rafael Dolis, Zach Putnam, and Hisanori Takahashi?
Garland, 33, has been a starter for his entire big league career. He’s coming back from a serious shoulder procedure (labrum, bursa, AND rotator cuff) that cost him half of 2011 and all of 2012, but before that, he was an effective, reliable, and durable long-term starter (106 ERA+ over 1959.2 innings from 2001 to 2010). He believes he is fully healthy after shoulder surgery, and had put up a 2.25 ERA in 10 Spring innings, with his velocity in the same range it was before his shoulder problems (upper-80s).
In sum, then, Garland is a pretty intriguing reclamation type for a team like the Cubs, who aren’t expected to be competitive this year. But is there really a spot for him?
It’s important to consider that Garland elected to opt-out of his deal with the Mariners rather than face the uncertainty of not making the roster and not having a rotation spot. With the Cubs, sure, it’s possible that another injury in the rotation pops up or that he could be stashed in the bullpen, but he can count. If and when Matt Garza or Scott Baker return, Garland’s spot could be in trouble.
And, from the Cubs’ perspective, unless they’re willing to put one of Feldman/Wood/Villanueva in the bullpen to start the year, they’d be taking a chance on Garland as a reliever, something he’s essentially never done. Further, from the Cubs’ perspective, the primary value in taking on someone like Garland is in trying to see if he can be “found money” – which is to say, whether he can become a potentially valuable flip piece (not that he’d ever net a huge return … but something). If he’s not starting regularly, is that ever going to happen?
All in all, I have a hard time seeing Garland wanting to come to the Cubs if he’s got any other options, and I’m not sure the Cubs are going to want to displace anyone in favor of Garland at this point. There’s some upside there, but it’s limited – and unlikely.