jon garland marinersLast 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.

  • Spriggs

    I know he struggled with control in spring training, but is Cabrera going back to the bullpen this year? I assume he’ll be in Iowa in some capacity.

  • Kyle

    Intriguing, but I think I have to pass.

    Shoulder injuries for pitchers are like wrist injuries for hitters, and it seems like his shoulder basically exploded inside his arm.

    If I’m ever going to use any sort of ST stats, there’s been some evidence you can give a little credence to Ks and BBs for pitchers.

    4 Ks and 5 BBs in 12 innings? Pass.

    • Rcleven

      Garland has never been a SO pitcher in his career. He has been an innings eater. He is a fly ball pitcher so I see that being one reason not to pick him up.
      Somebody has go to out and eat innings this year and I have no faith in Feldman to do that.

      • Kyle

        Al pitchers are strikeout pitchers.

        If MLB hitters find it easy to make contact with you, they will hurt you.

        • gocatsgo2003

          Except that’s not true. Not even close.

          • Kyle

            Sure it is.

            Show me an MLB pitcher successful with 3.33 K/9, which is what Garland has this spring.

            • Brett

              Not to enter into the broader argument, but I reckon I could find a few successful MLB pitchers with a 3.33 K/9 this Spring …

              • Kyle


                Garland isn’t a bum because of his Ks and BBs in spring.

                He’s a bum because he’s got no fastball, little command and his shoulder recently had a grenade go off inside it.

                But if we’re going to tout his 2.25 ERA, we should also look at the peripherals.

            • gocatsgo2003

              Aside from the fact that spring stats are pretty much completely meaningless? The most important thing is that “successful” is a subjective term. We aren’t talking about finding a Hall of Famer like Greg Maddux or even a guy to be in the rotation long-term; We are contemplating whether a reclamation project may be worth spending some time as a fifth starter to flip for a prospect at the deadline.

              In my mind, the most obvious go-to guy for pitching to contact with a lot of success is Tom Glavine, but, again, we aren’t talking about finding a guy of that caliber. Not even close.

            • gocatsgo2003

              Addendum: Other sinkerballers like Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, and Jason Marquis had themselves pretty decent careers with K/9 around 5.0.

            • Tommy

              Seriously guy – he’s pitched like 12 inning so far in spring training. Are you really going to pass judgment on a per 9 innings statistic from 12 innings?

              • Tommy

                Edwin Jackson’s K/9 through spring training is 3.60. Guess he’s a bum, too?

              • Kyle

                You are misreading the conversation.

                I don’t care about his ST stats. But if we are going to pretend like his 12 innings of ST matter, we should look beyond the ERA to his K/BB rates.

                • Tommy

                  Look beyond all of them! It’s 12 innings! It means absolutely nothing. Would you make a decision on any player if you managed a team based on 12 innings? Of course not!

                  • Kyle

                    That’s fine, too.

                  • Rcleven

                    Will Garland be judged on 12 innings?
                    It will be probably be what he will bring into April.
                    I don’t care much about the SOs it’s BBs that are concerning. Especially for a fly ball pitcher selectable to the HR. Things can get out of hand too fast.

  • Rcleven

    I love to have Garland in the starting rotation. He is better than three fifths of our current starters and with Baker down he would be able to eat at least 100-110 innings till the trade deadline.
    Watching him pitch he looked to have made the full recovery from injury.
    Don’t think I the Cubs would need him past the break.
    For reasonable money pick him up.

  • cubfanincardinalland

    If he is healthy, teams like the Rangers, Angels and Mets will be all over him. They have openings, and seem like they would be more attractive to Garland.

    • fromthemitten

      i agree tommy hanson went down i see the angels snagging him

  • Idaho Razorback

    Pass. I saw Garland pitch the other nite vs the Cubs on the Mariners station and their announcers weren’t talking him up. He had no movement on his pitches and he was hit hard the whole nite, even when he got guys out.

  • Dustin S

    My bet too would be that Garland will have at least 1 or 2 better offers from other teams where he’ll have a chance to be a 5th starter right out of the gate. If the Cubs make a serious run at him, we could also infer that Baker’s situation is on the bad end of the spectrum. Maybe Garland could see the Cubs as a nice story to return to the team he started with and take a bullpen spot, but that sounds more like something he’d say in an interview if he just doesn’t get any other offers.

    A person could make an argument that Figgins > Clevenger for the final bench spot, at least if there’s a small glimmer of hope left that he could return to 2010 or prior form. He’d be the kind of potentially tradeable chip and cheap gamble that Theo likes.

  • Tommy

    Anytime I hear that a guy can’t throw a 90mph fastball, my first reaction is that he sucks. But after that, I start wondering, is there really much of a difference between an 87 mph fastball and a 90 mph fastball, and I would imagine if the guy has good off-speed stuff, that’s really all that matters.

    I am curious about that, though. I know Maddux wasn’t hitting 90 much near the end of his career and he was still pretty darn good. I’d probably take a flyer on Garland for the same reason – he was pretty good before the injury, and if he’s truly healed up, why not take a flyer if he comes on the cheap?

    • Kyle

      Yes. There really is a big difference.

      When Maddux lost velocity, he went from possibly the best ever to awfully mediocre, with the same breaking stuff and control.

    • Rcleven

      I doubt Dickey threw the ball last year over the mid 70s.
      Blowing a ball by a hitter is not everything. It’s keeping hitters off balance.
      As the saying goes its location, location, location.
      Most power pitchers have short careers. The human body is just too fragile.

      • Timothy Scarbrough

        He averages 77 mph, and can hit low 80’s, which is remarkably fast for a knuckle ball.

      • Kyle

        No matter what the conversation, knuckleballers are always the exception to everything.

  • Ralph

    The Cubs had Garland once… I remember he was a big prospect for the Cubs at one time. I think they traded him for some bullpen help in the miracle (had no business being in the playoffs) playoff run of ’98. Maybe part of the Rick Aguilera deal with the Twins…. I don’t remember???

    • Sandberg

      I believe it was Matt Karchner. Ugh

      • Andrew Cieslak

        It was. And I remember Garland was very bitter about that trade.

  • Idaho Razorback

    The Cubs got Matt Karchner and a lefter reliever for Garland. I remember watching the game in which Karchner threw-up on the mound. Ewww……

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Didn’t the batter take the vomit deep?

  • Morken

    Yeah, because in the middle of a “rebuild”, signing players like Chone Figgins and Jon Garland makes a ton of success.

  • Fan in AK

    no thank you! health issues aside, he was an absolute dick in the clubhouse, according to a former White Sox beat writer I know. Said he was one of the worst ones players he ever had to deal with.

  • Die hard

    Red Sox looking for bullpen help