Most of the talk this week has focused on the Chicago Cubs as sellers and bullpen accumulators, but they came into these Winter Meetings with a couple of other needs: an outfielder and a starting pitcher. The options for the former are fading fast, but there are still plenty of interesting pitchers out there, including one who spent his 2013 season with the Cubs.
To that end, Mark Gonzales is on it with a short bit from Cubs GM Jed Hoyer:
Hoyer says Cubs could add more than one starting pitcher, met with agent for Scott Baker
— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) December 10, 2013
Re-engaging Baker at this point makes sense. Each side knew where the other stood at the end of the season with respect to a return (publicly, at least, each said they wanted to reunite in 2014), but Baker needed to see what was out there and the Cubs probably wanted a chance to gauge what the rotation was going to look like. Each side has a better sense now, and they could theoretically start talking numbers. Although Baker might be able to get a guaranteed deal, it’s going to be a short-term one after his Tommy John recovery in 2013 was slow and erratic. Baker did finally come back late in the year and make some decent appearances, but the velocity was way down, and there were plenty of reasons to be cautious about locking him into a rotation spot going forward. As a low-dollar (plus option?) flyer with whom the Cubs are very familiar? That’s a good risk.
The other portion of Hoyer’s comment is interesting, but unsurprising, particularly in the context of discussing bringing Baker back.
If you really consider the Cubs’ offseason strategy and rotation composition, you’d almost want them to look to add at least two arms. With a front four of Samardzija/Wood/Jackson/Arrieta, and Carlos Villanueva and Chris Rusin the presumed in-house options for fifth starter, adding at least one more starter makes clear sense. That starter could be an obvious rotation insertion – Masahiro Tanaka or Ubaldo Jimenez (for example’s sake) – or it could be another guy to compete for the fifth starter spot, like Baker.
By adding a second additional starter, the Cubs have plenty of cover to move Samardzija if the right deal comes up, or even Villanueva. If both pitcher additions end up being fifth starter depth types, then the Cubs will simply have more options fighting it out for a job in the rotation, and additional protection against injury/in-season trades. Let’s not forget that these guys went into 2013 with some eight clear starting options, and figured out a way to juggle it without any angst.
Either way, adding at least two starting pitchers – of varying abilities/costs – makes sense.