The top three positions in the Cubs rotation are set with Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood and Edwin Jackson. Jake Arrieta pitched great when the Cubs acquired him with Pedro Strop for Scott Feldman, posting a 3.66 ERA in nine starts to finish the year.
The change of scenery proved effective, and he appears poised to hold a rotation spot in 2014. The final spot will come down to either a rookie, someone like Chris Rusin, or a free agent the Cubs sign.
Last offseason, there was speculation the Cubs would be players in the free-agent market, but the only blockbuster move they made was signing Edwin Jackson. They may look to add another free agent this year, leaving Jake Arrieta in a fight for the fifth rotation spot.
The Cubs do have several intriguing pitching prospects, some nearing the big league level. It is possible they will continue to search for options like Travis Wood or Jake Arrieta, inexpensive players with upside and some track record of success, while the minor league pitchers develop.
The pitching prospects in question are Kyle Hendricks, who was recently named Minor League Pitcher of the Year in the Cubs organization, and C.J. Edwards. Hendricks went 13-4 with a 2.00 ERA in 27 combined starts at the Double-A and Triple-A levels. He is expected to begin the year at Triple-A but could be an early call-up if he continues to dominate opposing hitters.
The other pitcher, C.J. Edwards, is only 22 years old and posted a combined 1.86 ERA in 24 starts in High-A between the Cubs and Texas Rangers organizations. He's expected to begin the year at Double-A and, depending on how he progresses, could face Triple-A hitters by the end of 2014.
The Cubs have plenty of reasons to be patient, but despite the hype and excitement around some of the Cubs prospects, all bets are off when it comes to minor league talent. The uncontrollable factors that could derail a player's progress or injuries are reasons why teams don't rest on their laurels waiting for prospects to mature.
A veteran arm who could potentially eat up innings would serve the Cubs rotation and bullpen well. Even if it is on a one- or two-year deal, the Cubs should exhaust those options before relying on internal options.
It's hard to see the Cubs going after a big-name free-agent arm given the vast majority of pitchers available this offseason are over 30 years old and Jeff Samardzija is two years from free agency and without an extension.
Find a serviceable stopgap and re-evaluate at the end of the season. That's been this teams M.O. the past two years anyway.