The Cubs have an interesting situation on their hands.
Carlos Marmol, Sean Marshall, James Russell, and now Jeff Stevens are all pitching well coming out of the bullpen. In the rotation, each of Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells, Carlos Silva, Tom Gorzelanny, and Ted Lilly's seasons have been solid overall.
At the moment, Dempster and Lilly are coming off of really good outings while Gorzelanny and Wells are coming off pretty bad outings. Silva's due to start on Saturday.
Carlos Zambrano hasn't exactly been setting the world on fire as either a starter or reliever this year, but he'll be returning to the rotation soon and one of the aforementioned starters will be moving out.
The remaining two members of the pitching staff are 31-year-old John Grabow and 36-year-old Bob Howry.
Howry was horrible with the Diamondbacks, although he hasn't been quite that bad in limited action with the Cubs so far, and the fastball-first pitcher is struggling to hit 90 mph on the radar gun.
Grabow has been consistently bad this season, but is still holding down a spot in the Cubs bullpen.
In the meantime, Jay Jackson has done great in Triple-A this season, Andrew Cashner has been lights out in both Double-A and Triple-A, and now both players are making the transition to the bullpen to prepare for their call-ups.
If you're making the decisions for the Cubs, what do you do in this situation?
With Dempster and Lilly being proven starters that are pitching well, I highly doubt that they're going anywhere.
Silva's record is largely boosted by the 6.98 average run support he's gotten, but he's been pitching pretty well and has potential injury issues that don't make him a great option to move to the 'pen.
Wells is coming off of a great 2009 season, he may be part of this rotation for years to come, and he doesn't have much experience coming out of the bullpen.
Gorzelanny is coming off of two poor seasons, but he's done fine for the most part this season and the last thing the Cubs need is another lefty in the bullpen.
Then, once it's time for Jackson and/or Cashner to get the call, who do you demote?
Obviously the Cubs won't send down Marmol or Marshall, but demoting Russell would be almost as dumb.
Gorzelanny's out of options and there's no way he'd make it through waivers with his $800,000 salary, so holding on to him in Triple-A isn't going to happen.
The chances of Lilly or Dempster being designated for assignment are slim to none, and Slim just left town.
Zambrano would most likely clear waivers if DFA'd, but good luck trying to get Big Z to accept the assignment.
So who's left?
A solid young reliever (Stevens), a good young starter (Wells), the guy you got for Milton Bradley (Silva), the left-handed reliever that you signed to a potentially over-market two-year contract the previous offseason (Grabow), and the veteran righty that you just signed (Howry).
If both Cashner and Jackson are called up, two of those five need to be cleared off of the 25-man roster.
Anything that could be interpreted as struggles for Stevens will likely prompt his demotion for the simple fact that it's the easiest move to make. Whether or not he is deserving of that demotion is another matter altogether.
I'm pretty sure that Wells has at least one option remaining, so he would also be a fairly easy move, but I'm not sure that it would be good for his development. It would also be an interesting move to explain to the media.
Wells has had a few poor outings this year and, since I'm pretty sure he has at least one option remaining, it might do him some good to go back to the minors. But that's still a big question: How would a demotion affect his development?
Despite his solid start to the season, Silva would also clear waivers in all likelihood because of the salary he's due through the rest of this season and next season. Since he isn't much of a bullpen option, it might work to have him starting in Triple-A and possibly build up his trade value.
Howry already cleared waivers with Arizona, so he might do so again, even though teams would only have to pick up his pro-rated Cubs contract instead of the 2.25 million dollar contract he had with the Diamondbacks.
The combination of his contract and performance means that Grabow would clear waivers, too.
For some reason, though, I just get the feeling that Howry and Grabow would be released before they'd be moved to the minor leagues.
Of course, this decision wouldn't have to be made at all if Howry wasn't signed by the Cubs last week. Since that move was quickly followed by Cashner's move to the Triple-A bullpen, I have to believe that the team will be sticking by Howry for the foreseeable future.
I think that releasing Howry is the best overall option, but I just don't see it happening.
Although Hendry was eventually willing to admit his mistake with Milton Bradley, it took most of the regular season for him to finally do so. In that light, I don't think that Grabow will be going anywhere anytime soon, either.
And even if Hendry was willing to part with him, I'm not sure that any team would be willing to trade for him or that Hendry would be quite willing enough to release him and eat his contract.
Although I believe that getting rid of Grabow would be in both the short and long-term best interests of the team, I don't know if it could realistically happen.
That leaves the demotion of Wells or Silva as the only option, depending on how they each do in their next start or two. Unless both pitchers put together a string of strong starts, whichever one is doing worse would be sent to Iowa.
Since that is the only option left, I'm stuck believing that only one of Jackson and Cashner is going to get the call-up. I just don't see the Cubs making either of those moves unless they absolutely have to.
So that leaves me with one question that I don't have an answer to: What the heck are they doing?
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