MLB Free Agency: Chicago Cubs Reportedly Nearing Deal with Paul Maholm

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MLB Free Agency: Chicago Cubs Reportedly Nearing Deal with Paul Maholm
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According to both ESPN Chicago's Bruce Levine and FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal on Twitter, the Chicago Cubs have nearly completed a deal with free-agent left-hander Paul Maholm.

While not the sexiest of remaining names, Maholm was ranked as MLBTradeRumors.com's top remaining ground-ball starter on the market.  Maholm, 29, has spent his entire career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who drafted him eighth overall in 2003.  He was picked right after Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis, and right before now-White Sox starter John Danks. 

In Maholm, the Cubs would satisfy some pitching needs. 

Throughout his career, Maholm has shown a strong ability to induce ground balls.  For his career, his ratio of ground balls to fly balls is 1.12:1; the MLB average is 0.8:1. 

His ERA hasn't always reflected this, but some of that is owed to the poor Pirates team behind him.  Batters have posted a .314 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) against Maholm, which is 15 points higher than the .299 MLB average.

Maholm can also pitch relatively deep into a game. 

While he's only crossed the 200-inning mark once—206.1 innings in 2008—he's averaged 6.2 innings per start in his career, which is above the MLB average of 5.98.  Based on his career averages, if Maholm were to get 34 starts, he would log 210 innings. 

Notwithstanding the potential move to Wrigley, pitching in front of a defensively solid infield of Ian Stewart (3B), Starlin Castro (SS), Darwin Barney (2B) and Bryan LaHair (1B) should help Maholm's numbers. 

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Factoring in the outfield of David DeJesus (RF), Marlon Byrd (CF) and whoever the Cubs stick in left once they (hopefully) deal Alfonso Soriano, Maholm's numbers should improve.

The Cubs' 40-man roster is currently full, so signing Maholm would mean having to drop or trade another player.  Soriano has drawn some interest, according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman on Twitter.  Trading Soriano and upgrading the rotation would be further positive moves in a line of already solid moves made by the Cubs' new front office.

Furthermore, by snagging Maholm from the Pirates, the Cubs would be weakening an NL Central division rival.  Maholm's 3.66 ERA was second-best on the 2011 Pirates, behind only breakout starter Jeff Karstens's 3.38 mark.

Coming off a three-year, $13.75 million extension he signed following his solid 2008 campaign (9-9; 3.71 ERA; 206.1 innings; 31 starts), Maholm should be in line to make some decent money. 

His 2011 numbers were somewhat comparable to 2008 (6-14; 3.66 ERA; 162.1 innings; 26 starts), so a modest raise could be in order.

For a team whose starting-pitching struggles were well documented in 2011, Maholm should be a solid upgrade.

 

UPDATE: The Cubs officially announced the signing. Maholm will make $4.25 million in 2012, with a $6.5 million option for 2013, or a $500k buyout. No corresponding 40 man roster move has been made yet.

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