Chicago Cubs: Travis Wood and the 5 Best Offseason Acquisitions
The Cubs may have missed out on a chance to reel in two superstars who were on their radar for quite some time—Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder—but Theo Epstein's first offseason as President of Baseball Operations certainly shouldn't be viewed as a failure.
So far, the former Red Sox GM has brought in several lesser-known role players who should have an instant impact with the team.
His low-key approach is a departure from the big spending style of Jim Hendry, the Cubs' former GM, who was often ridiculed for dropping too much cash on aging, big-name free agents instead of using that money to build a solid, well-rounded ball club.
So, without further ado, here are the Cubs' five biggest offseason acquisitions thus far. Here's to hoping they'll play a major role in bringing a long-awaited World Series trophy back to Chicago.
5. Paul Maholm
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Maholm has spent his entire seven year career with the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates.
He's had flashes of brilliance countered by extended periods of mediocrity.
Last season was one of his best to date (although you wouldn't know it by looking at his 6-14 record), as he posted a respectable 3.66 ERA and struck out 97 batters before succumbing to a late-season shoulder injury.
The addition of Maholm gives the Cubs another quality left-handed arm, and he should fit nicely somewhere in the bottom half of the rotation. He's not a guy that brings overwhelming heat, nor do his breaking pitches have any special bite, but he's good for 170-plus quality innings a year.
And, after all, eating innings is one of the main objectives of end-of-the-line starters.
4. Gerardo Concepcion
The Cubs signed Gerardo Concepcion, a former Rookie of the Year in the Cuban National League, to a $7 million deal on February 2nd.
Though he played only one year in the CNL, he made quite the name for himself, posting a 3.36 ERA in 16 starts and five relief appearances.
Those comparisons are valid to a certain extent—both are tall, lanky lefties who feature sharp breaking pitches in their repertoire.
However, Concepion's ceiling isn't nearly as high as Chapman's (most scouts expect Concepion to be a solid end-of-the-rotation starter at best), nor is the velocity on his fastball anywhere close to Chapman's (Concepion's fastball is said to peak around 94 MPH).
Despite being a fairly polished pitcher, Concepcion is only 18 years young, so it's likely that he won't take the mound at Wrigley until very late this season at the earliest.
But when he does, Cubs fans probably won't be disappointed—many scouts are projecting him to be a sure-fire success in the Major Leagues.
3. David DeJesus
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
While DeJesus isn't exact the superstar free agent that some Cubs fans were expecting Epstein to bring to Chicago, he is a quality defensive player and a seasoned hitter.
DeJesus can play any position in the outfield, but with CF and LF all but shored up with Marlon Byrd and Alfonso Soriano, DeJesus will probably spend most of his time in RF, most likely splitting time with Reed Johnson, a fan favorite.
DeJesus is a possible candidate for the lead-off spot (which is where most of his at-bats have come from in the past) should Dale Sveum decide to move Starlin Castro to second or third in the order. If Sveum decides to leave Castro in the 1-hole, DeJesus would likely fall to sixth or seventh.
DeJesus looks to bounce back from a subpar 2010 season. He batted only .240, the lowest mark of his career, and got on base a lackluster 32 percent of the time.
2. Anthony Rizzo
Tony Medina/Getty Images
There is a lot of pressure resting on first baseman Anthony Rizzo's shoulders.
The Cubs traded away Andrew Cashner, one of their top pitching prospects, to bring Rizzo to Wrigleyville.
Rizzo is a big, strong lefty (6'3", 220 pounds) who has hit for quite a bit of power during five years in the Padres and Red Sox minor league systems.
However, he struggled last season after being called up to the big leagues. He tallied only one home run in 128 at-bats (blame that on spacious Petco Park), and his average rested well below the Mendoza line (.141).
That being said, Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein have both been connected to Rizzo in the past, so their decision to bring him to Chicago isn't just a shot in the dark. Both men believe he has the ability to become a potent left-handed power hitter, a slugger who will whack 20-30 round-trippers a season and, in turn, add an intimidating power threat to the middle of the Cubs' order (something they are dearly lacking)
Rizzo will likely battle Bryan Lahair (who ended the 2011 season on quite a hot streak) for the first base job during spring training.
1. Travis Wood
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
The Cubs acquired the 25-year-old Wood in a December trade with the division rival Reds.
They dealt away a valuable left-hander in Sean Marshall, but expect Wood to fill that void quite nicely.
Like Marshall, Wood is a lefty and will be competing for a spot in the mid-to-lower half of the Cubs rotation.
If he fails to find his niche as a starter, he will still be a major factor for the Cubs coming out of the bullpen.
Wood had a tremendous 2010 season, posting a 3.51 ERA in 102 innings of work. He slumped during his sophomore campaign, however—his ERA skyrocketed to over 4.80, his strikeout numbers dropped, and he walked far too many batters.
Obviously, the Cubs are hoping that Wood can return to his 2010 form, and there is good reason to believe that he will. The change of scenery in itself may do wonders in getting Wood's career back on the right path.