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We can see that these five starters have their positives and negatives, but no one doubts that it is a noticeable improvement from the trainwreck of 2011. From here on out, the team has a few options that will see their time due to injury or the almost inevitable failings of at least one member of the aforementioned starters.
Travis Wood was most likely the best talent of the pitchers added to this 2012 team, acquired in a package from the Reds in the deal for Sean Marshall. Wood pitched extremely well in his rookie season in 2010, and struggled in his sophomore season last year.
It was a perfect buy-low situation, as he just turned 25 years of age and still has the ability to be a top-of-the-rotation guy in the not too distant future. He is a strikeout lefty, highly touted his entire minor league career.
I don't quite understand the negative feeling toward him by some, as his "down season" in 2011 happens to look IDENTICAL to how Volstad has pitched for three straight full years.
His spring training struggles aside, he will be back on the Major League roster at the first sign of a sprung leak. That is an incredible safety valve to have up the team's sleeve, one more teams in baseball wouldn't mind to have.
The Cubs did give up a quality talent to acquire the young pitcher, no one doubts that. Yet a betting man would be in good shape to predict Wood as an important part of the future of the team, in some vein or another.
While Wood brings youth with an upside worth monitoring, Randy Wells brings a few different positives of his own as another weapon of the Cubs new-found rotational depth. Wells is not only dirt-cheap and relatively young at 29, but he has been a perfectly adequate back-end of the rotation pitcher for the past three seasons. Over these years, he has compiled a 4.01 ERA and a serviceable 1.35 WHIP. He ain't a strike-out pitcher, but his walk rates are beneficial, and many teams in the Majors could do a Heck of a lot worse for a 5th starter than him. His career has been short and full of ups and downs, but the Cubs would be happy to earn some composite of what he's produced over his Cub tenure.
After Wells, the team has some lesser considerations to mull over. On top of Rodrigo Lopez potentially making the team, they have optioned the former Ray Andy Sonnanstine to their Triple-A affiliate. The two should only see time due to more serious rotation concerns, or in some long-relief role.
In so many words, some semblance of a collapse would have to occur before I want this franchise to be giving legitimate time to Lopez or Sonnanstine. They're not the worst options in the fifth spot in a pinch, but they don't really help the team in any regard.
You might infer that I'm not a fan of them. You'd be right. How observant of you. You must be Sherlock Holmes with such deductive skill, or at least Watson.
All in all, even when it comes to the end of the line, the team has done a lot to be prepared for all situations. They have many more prospects that could all see time in the second half of the season as well. They have the upside, they have the durability and they have passionate and steadfast cogs in place.
Whether or not everything will mesh remains to be seen, but there should be something worth viewing every game of the year on the mound, and for that Cubs fans can keep their hope alive. To a degree.