Grading the Chicago Cubs' Offseason Moves so Far
The Chicago Cubs have done a lot this winter in an attempt to improve the on-the-field product for 2013.
However, whether all of the free-agent signings lead to on-the-field success has yet to be determined.
On paper, the Cubs were one of the most active teams this winter. That’s most likely due to the fact that they lost 101 games in 2012 and had a bunch of holes to fill if they planned on improving that 101-loss season.
Looking at the Cubs lineup as we move closer to spring training, not much has changed. The area that received a complete overhaul was the pitching staff. The team added a bunch of arms this winter which has given Chicago one of the deepest staffs in the league.
However, having a deep pitching staff does not translate to having a good pitching staff; far from it actually.
The Chicago Cubs' newly signed players represent hope in 2013, and show that the front office has a plan in place and is putting the plan into action. Just ask Mets fans what it feels like to see holes in their team and watch their front office sit and do nothing to address them.
Mets fans' woes aside, let’s take a look at some of the Chicago Cubs’ offseason moves so far this winter.
Ian Stewart, 3B
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After Ian Stewart was originally non-tendered by the Cubs, they signed him a few days later to a one-year contract for a guaranteed $2 million (if he makes the roster). He can also earn an extra $500,000 in incentives.
It looked as if the Cubs were going to try to look elsewhere to fill their need at third base, but ended up giving Stewart one more chance to prove why he was once considered one of the top prospects in the game.
After looking at the other third baseman who were available via free agency, Stewart was probably the most logical choice for the Cubs. Stewart is a relatively low-risk signing due to the length of his deal and the amount of money involved.
If his wrist is finally healed, maybe he can finally get his career on track.
If not, then Stewart is a low-cost stop gap at third until young prospect Javier Baez is ready to join the team.
Either way, this may be Stewart's last chance to prove he belongs in the major leagues. Maybe that will be enough to light a fire under him this season and cause him to start playing up to his potential.
Scott Feldman, SP
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Scott Feldman comes to the Cubs after spending eight years in the Texas Rangers organization. His career ERA is 4.81 over that time span.
None of Feldman’s stats will jump off the page and get fans super excited about the Cubs signing Feldman to a one-year contract. The deal is worth $6 million, with an additional $1 million in incentives.
This signing was all about adding depth to the rotation, and if Feldman doesn’t crack the starting five, he will most likely settle into a bullpen role. However, Cubs fans are hoping that the switch to a National League environment will help Feldman get back to his 2009 form where he won 17 games for the Rangers.
Kyuji Fujikawa, RP
The Cubs bullpen was a definite area of need heading into 2013. In an attempt to address that need, the Cubs kind of snuck in and stole Japanese closer Kyuji Fujikawa out from under his other suitors.
Fuijkawa is famous in Japan for his “fireball fastball,” which makes him sound like a cross between a character in a Super Mario Bros. video game and a pitcher.
However, his fastball isn’t his only pitch. His splitter and curveball are absolutely filthy (check out the video in this slide). With a combination of those three pitches, it’s very easy to start getting excited about the fact that he can dominate American batters like he dominated the batters in Japan.
The Cubs stated he would start spring training as the setup man, but don’t be surprised if he’s named the closer at some point in 2013.
Scott Baker, SP
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With Baker coming off a serious injury, and considering the fact that the team had some depth issues in the rotation, it may seem like the Cubs should have turned elsewhere to help improve the 2013 starting rotation. But it seems like Theo Epstein is pretty confident that Baker will be very successful in the NL Central:
Scott Baker is a pitch maker. He's somebody who can go out and execute a game plan against the best lineups. When he's commanding and healthy, he'll have a lot of success in this division.
It looks as if the Epstein believes he should have a solid No. 4 or No. 5 starter in Baker for 2013.
Nate Schierholtz, RF
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Nate Schierholtz was once being groomed to be the starting right fielder of the San Francisco Giants. Unfortunately that didn't pan out, and he has spent the majority of his career as a platoon player.
Schierholtz does have some upside, but this was another low-risk, stop-gap signing for the Cubs similar to the Ian Stewart signing at third base.
Schierholtz has a chance to win the job this spring, but with young and hungry prospects itching to get into the show, it may only be a matter of time before he finds himself in a platoon role again.
Carlos Villanueva, SP
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Most are projecting Carlos Villanueva to end up in a long relief role for the Cubs in 2013. He could also be utilized as a spot starter, and if Baker isn't ready for the start of the season he could sneak in to the back end of the rotation.
This signing was all about adding depth to the pitching staff for the Cubs.
It looked as if Villanueva was a lock to be in the rotation until the team signed Edwin Jackson. Now it seems like he may be the odd man out. However, the Cubs will probably give him every opportunity to solidify himself as a starter in the rotation this spring.
Edwin Jackson, SP
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Edwin Jackson was ultimately signed by the Cubs after they gave up on pursuing Anibal Sanchez (re-signed with Tigers).
This was an interesting signing for the Cubs. Where most of the other Cubs signings seemed to be about building depth and holding down the fort until better help comes along, according to CSNChicago.com, the Cubs view Jackson as part of their rebuilding plans.
The Cubs were attracted to Jackson by his age and durability. While his stats won't jump off the page, he is an innings eater and will be a solid starter in the Cubs rotation for the next couple of years.
Some fans were upset with the amount of money the Cubs gave to Jackson, but the market dictates the price. Even if the Cubs did slightly over pay, sometimes you have to pay a little extra for the things you want, and it's apparent that the Cubs see Jackson as a valuable piece in their rebuilding process.
The funny thing about the Jackson signing is that, according to CSNChicago.com, Matt Garza was supposedly instrumental in helping the Cubs land Jackson. Could this mean the Cubs plan on hanging on to Garza after all?