With a rotation that already featured three starters who absolutely will not be displaced (Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson, Travis Wood), and one starter the Cubs very much want to give a shot (Jake Arrieta), it’s long been a fair bet that, this offseason, the Cubs would grab just one clear starting pitcher this offseason. The Cubs have reportedly done that with Jason Hammel, and the rest of the additions are of the “depth” variety – guys like Tsuyoshi Wada, Brett Marshall, etc.
Case closed, no more starting pitcher signings, stop reading, etc. Right?
Well, probably. But there are a handful of things to keep in mind: (1) Hammel, as discussed yesterday, comes with some potential injury nervousness and the ability to pitch in the bullpen if it comes to that; (2) while everyone wants to see Arrieta finally break out as a starter, some believe he could be very, very good in the bullpen; (3) this front office will get value wherever it can find it, even where it is inconvenient; and (4) this front office brought in more starting options last year than initially made sense, and that worked out well.
So, continuing to pursue another starting option, while unlikely, is conceivable. That is particularly true where there could be long-term potential, say, for example, where the pitcher at issue is a 27-year-old free agent with upside.
That free agent is Korean righty Suk-Min Yoon, who has been discussed at length here before. The gist: prior to 2013, he was considered the second best starting pitcher in the KBO (Korea’s highest league) behind Hyun-Jin Ryu, who came to the States last year and pitched extremely well. But, in 2013, Yoon suffered a shoulder injury that sapped him of considerable velocity, and forced a move to the bullpen. What exactly a signing team is getting is largely unknown, but agent Scott Boras has still reportedly been asking for a tidy sum to get Yoon.
Early in the offseason, the Cubs were heavily attached to Yoon, but those mentions have trailed off. Well, until recently, that is.
At least two reports out of Korea indicate that the Cubs remain among at least five teams – Twins, Rangers, Orioles, Giants – interested in signing Yoon. Boras told Jon Morosi that number is actually more like six or seven, and Yoon is “very close” to a deal.
The Orioles are likely the most pitching-needy team among that group (but could Yoon pass the infamous Oriole physical?), and they have reportedly made Yoon a formal offer. A source tells Drew Davison that Yoon will throw today in Arizona for the Rangers, who could use Yoon to help fill the temporary void left by Derek Holland’s injury. The Giants (and the Orioles) reportedly attended a private Yoon workout last week.
With Spring Training just around the corner, Yoon is likely to land a deal within a matter of days. We’ll see if the Cubs remained involved until the end, or if they were viewing Hammel and Yoon as alternative options. It’s conceivable that the Cubs are remaining “in” on Yoon until the Hammel deal is finalized, just in case something with the physical scuttles the latter one. And, for his part, maybe Yoon is waiting to sign once he’s certain the Cubs are out.
Or maybe the Cubs view signing Yoon as a pure asset-gathering strategy, and the complications his presence would add to the rotation picture are of no moment. (Plus, adding Yoon would provide additional cover for the Cubs to shop Jeff Samardzija. Just noting that.)