Pedro Martinez Attracting Interest from Chicago Cubs: But Why?

Jacob NitzbergAnalyst IJune 18, 2009

NEW YORK - AUGUST 06:  Pedro Martinez #45 of the New York Mets deals a pitch against the San Diego Padres on August 6, 2008 at Shea Stadium in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

According to the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Cubs are one of two teams showing serious interest in signing free agent starting pitcher Pedro Martinez. The Cubs have been watching Martinez work out in his native Dominican Republic while awaiting an offer from a major league club.

Martinez told the Associated Press, "Chicago and Tampa Bay are the two teams that have shown the most interest, and we are negotiating with them, although I've told my agent not to call me until it's a done deal."

Martinez is a free agent after his four-year deal with the New York Mets expired after last season. A 17-year veteran, Martinez is 214-99 in his career with an ERA of just 2.91.

However, his last three seasons with the Mets were anything but "Pedro-like."

In 2006, he made just 23 starts, posting a 4.48 ERA, the first time in his career he had an ERA above 4.00. His 2007 season was shortened by injury, and he made his first start on Sept. 3 of that year. Last year, Pedro made 20 starts, going 5-6 with a career high 5.61 ERA.

My question is, why are the Cubs looking at him?

The biggest problem the Cubs have right now is their hitting, not pitching. 

The Cubs have the fourth-best team ERA in the major leagues at 3.82. Their ERA by the starting rotation is No. 1 in all of baseball at 3.64. 

The Cubs have Carlos Zambrano, Rich Harden, Ted Lilly and Ryan Dempster with solidified spots in the rotation. Rookie Randy Wells, despite being 0-3, has pitched extremely well, with a 2.55 ERA in seven starts.

It doesn't seem as if any of them are in danger of losing a rotation spot, so a Martinez signing might be seen as an insurance policy.

The Cubs already have options in the bullpen in case of an injury, including lefthander Sean Marshall, who has made eight starts this year, and Aaron Heilman, who has started games in the past. In AAA, the Iowa Cubs have former Notre Dame wide receiver Jeff Samardzija, who is stretching himself back into a starting role.

A more important question is, would Martinez accept a role in the bullpen if the Cubs wanted him there?

Could a pitcher who has been a starter since 1994 move into the 'pen successfully?

The Cubs' bullpen ERA is 4.26, good for 19th in the league. Aside from Carlos Marmol, there isn't really a reliever on the roster that strikes fear into the heart of opposing hitters. Adding a veteran pitcher like Pedro might even get Wells his first win.

If Martinez were willing to pitch out of the 'pen for the Cubs, I could understand why the Cubs may be seeking his services. Otherwise, I think it will be nothing more than speculation.