Predicting the 2013 Chicago Cubs' Starting Rotation
The only thing that kept the Chicago Cubs from finishing in last place in their division last year was a team that is no longer in their division, the Houston Astros. Needless to say, the 2013 Cubs will be looking to improve on their 101 loss season of 2012.
A good jumping off point for improvement will be the starting rotation, as the Cubs sported the third worst ERA in the National League in 2012 with a 4.51. Only the Colorado Rockies and the Houston Astros finished lower than the Cubs in ERA in the National League, and it should be no surprise that these three teams also had the worst records in the National League.
That shows just how important pitching is.
Theo Epstein understands the importance of pitching. During his nine year tenure with the Red Sox, his team made the playoffs six times. Over those six playoff runs, those teams never ranked worse than tenth in the American League for ERA. The two years his team won the World Series, 2004 and 2007, they were ranked third (2004) and second (2007) in the American League for ERA.
It’s no wonder why Epstein is desperately trying to add pitchers to the minor league system. As it stands now, there are no pitching prospects waiting in the minor leagues to provide the team with any relief anytime soon. Any pitching help will inevitably come via free agency or the trade market.
Regardless of where it comes from, the Cubs will be looking to add a couple of arms this winter to help bolster the starting staff. Theo Epstein has stated “if there are sound investments out there, whether they’re big or small, we’ll pursue them and try to sign them.”
With that in mind, here is a sneak peek at what the Chicago Cubs starting rotation may look like when spring training breaks in 2013.
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ESPN recently reported that the Cubs have made an offer to left-handed hurler Francisco Liriano. Liriano is coming off two very disappointing seasons following Tommy John surgery. However, he was once one of the most dominant pitchers in the game.
Liriano might be able to take advantage of pitching in a National League environment and get his career back on track. At least, that’s what the Cubs may be thinking.
If Liriano signs with the Cubs, it will because the team does not think that Travis Wood can be a viable starter in the rotation. If Liriano can get his walks under control, his BB/9 has been over 5.0 for the past two years, the Cubs will have a very talented left-handed pitcher to join the team.
If Liriano doesn't sign, expect Travis Wood to fill in the No. 5 spot in the rotation.
Scott Baker is coming fresh off of Tommy John surgery for the 2013 season. He missed the entire 2012 season. The Cubs signed Baker to a one-year deal worth $5.5M, with the potential to add another $1.5M in incentives.
How pitchers respond to Tommy John surgery is pretty much hit or miss, but with medical advances these days, we are seeing pitchers have much more success after the procedure. Remember when getting Tommy John surgery basically meant the pitcher’s career was over? It’s not necessarily the case anymore.
The signing is a win-win for both the Cubs and Baker. Baker will be looking to get his career back on track, and the Cubs are trying to get their pitching back on track. It seems like a perfect match for the both of them.
The Cubs will see how Baker pitches during the first half of the year and ultimately make a decision on what to do with him in the future. If the Cubs are not contending, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Baker moved before the trade deadline.
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ESPN reported yesterday that the Cubs have signed Scott Feldman to to a one-year deal which gives them added depth in the rotation.
Feldman is coming off a down year where he pitched to a 6-11 record and a 5.09 ERA.
The Cubs are hoping he regains his form from 2009 when he won 17 games. The move to the National League should certainly help him out.
Jed Hoyer has already gone on record guaranteeing Feldman a spot in the rotation in 2013. Hoyer stated “We certainly gave him assurances, you come in here, you’re going to be in the rotation. Having that (role), you will see guys settle in a little. It is hard to perform when you’re always worried about the security of your job if you don’t perform.’’
Feldman also believes he's a better pitcher than he was in 2009 when he accumulated 17 wins. Only time will tell if Feldman's down years were due to "bad luck" as Hoyer has alluded to.
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In his first full season as a starter, Samardzija definitely came on strong, and was the most reliable pitcher in the Cubs rotation during 2012. Samardzija sported a 3.81 ERA and his SO/9 was 9.3 over a span of 28 games started.
He’s arbitration eligible for the first time in his career and the Cubs should make good on a deal with the young right hander after a successful 2012.
Samardzija has the makings to be the ace of a staff and, depending on how Garza’s elbow ailment pans out, Samardzija may be looked on to take on that ace role as early as 2013.
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Garza is coming off an elbow injury which sidelined him for the majority of the 2012 campaign. He was injured on July 21 and didn’t pitch again the rest of the year. The club recently received some great news and, as of November 15, Garza has been cleared to begin rehab work.
The Cubs are hoping their ace will be ready for the start of spring training, which kicks off on February 9.
Garza was at the center of trade rumors before his injury squashed any talks back in July. It will be interesting to see if Garza regains his form and these trade talks heat up again before the deadline in 2013. But until such time, Garza will be called upon to lead the Cubs rotation again next season.