The Chicago Cubs are looking to acquire at least one veteran starter, even though their rotation appears to be set. While they appear to have a rotation set, the Cubs would like to add depth to the rotation, given the questions that surround a staff led by Carlos Zambrano.
It would appear that Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Carlos Silva and possibly Randy Wells are locks. Tom Gorzelanny has earned a spot in the rotation after spending a great deal of time there down the stretch and will be given every opportunity to be there come April.
However, beyond those five, unproven pitchers like Casey Coleman and Thomas Diamond are one Zambrano tirade or Dempster broken toe away from starting for the Cubs.
Due to the lack of depth, despite the bullpen being much more of an issue, the Cubs are looking at veteran pitchers on the free agent market, most of which have pretty extensive injury histories.
Since Cliff Lee and Carl Pavano are, no doubt, out of the Cubs' price range, they've turned their attention to guys like Brandon Webb. Webb, a former Cy Young winner with the Arizona Diamondbacks, hasn't pitched since opening day of 2009 due to shoulder issues.
Since breaking into the league in '03, Webb has never posted an ERA over 3.60 and has hit at least 160 strikeouts in all six seasons.
Former division rival Aaron Harang is also on the Cubs' radar. Harang has really struggled in recent years, but had a couple of very good years in Cincinnati, breaking the 200 K barrier twice, while keeping his ERA under 3.80 in both of those seasons.
While health isn't as much of an issue with Harang as it is with the other potential Cub targets, his consistency is certainly a cause for concern, having posted a 5.32 ERA in 2010.
The Cubs are also reportedly interested in a pair of lefties. Erik Bedard is a name familiar to Cubs fans, as the Cubs had attempted to pry him away from Baltimore before he was dealt to Seattle. Bedard has good stuff when he's healthy, but staying healthy has been a major task for the southpaw. He didn't pitch at all in 2010 for Seattle, and started just 15 games in both 2008 and 2009.
Jeff Francis has never put up torrid numbers, but has spent his whole career pitching at high-altitude Coors Field for the Rockies. Francis missed all of 2009 after undergoing surgery on his left shoulder. His best season came in 2007, when he won 17 games while striking out a career high 165 hitters, despite an ERA over four.
Out of these potential targets, there's no doubt that Webb provides the most upside, if he can be healthy. Webb appears to have the most suitors, with Washington and Colorado also reportedly in on him.
While any of these guys would present the Cubs with an injury risk, limiting their innings as a spot starter, or even long reliever could make them sleepers on the market, and possibly even bargains.