Since the Chicago Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908 this may be a redundancy, but they have fallen on hard times. Their 61-101 record was the worst on the North Side in 46 seasons. Building primarily for the future, the Cubs made only one big multi-year free agent signing and were quiet on the trade front. Club president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer built their pitching staff and made short term free agent signings to bolster their outfield.
For 2013, the Cubs have the makings of a decent top three atop their rotation. Apparently manager Dale Sveum is leaning towards a fourth starter also.
“You have Garza, Samardzija, Jackson, Feldman and the other spot, and you never know — there’s no guarantees of any spots besides the top three. We’ll let it all pan out and see what happens.”
All of Chicago’s potential starters in 2013 except Travis Wood were signed or extended this offseason.
Jeff Samardzija had a better year throwing the ball in 2012 than his ex-quarterback Brady Quinn. The former All-American receiver had a 1.22 WHIP in 28 starts with 9.3 K/IP. The key to his breakout year was improved command, his walk percentage dropped dropped precipitously from his career average. A potential future frontline starter, he signed a one year $2.65 million contract avoiding arbitration.
The Cubs acquired Matt Garza from Tampa Bay prior to the 2011 season. Despite a down year in 2012 due to an elbow injury, he signed a one year $10 million deal, also avoiding arbitration. Over the past two years he is 15-17 with a 3.51 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP.
Illustrating just how pricey starting has become is Edwin Jackson’s contract. The well travelled Jackson was signed to a 4 year $52 million dollar contract. Over the past two years he sports a 22-20 record with middling ratios of 3.91 ERA/1.33 WHIP.
Two competitors for the fifth starting role were brought in. Scott Feldman signed a one year $5 million deal. He had a 5.09 ERA in 123.2 IP in Texas in 2012. Competing with Feldman for the fifth spot will be Carlos Villanueva. Pitching for Toronto he had a 1.27 WHIP with 8.8 K/9IP in 125.1 IP. Villanueva signed for 2 years $10 million.
Japanese reliever Kyuji Fujikawa had 24 saves with a 1.32 ERA for Hanshin in 2012. Fujikawa may be the closer for the Cubs and was signed to a two year deal in December.
The right handed hitting Scott Hairston represented one of the better values of the 2012-2013 offseason. In two years as a New York Met he went 27 HR/81 RBI/.795 OPS in 509 AB. The Cubs signed Hairston to a two year $5 million dollar contract. Hairston kills left handed pitching, but only once has had more than 400 AB’s in a season.
Outfielder Nate Schierholtz was signed to 1 year $2.25 million deal. The left handed hitting Schierholtz has a .727 career OPS in six seasons mostly with San Francisco.
CF Brett Jackson has been with the organization since being drafted out of the University of California in 2009. He spent the latter part of 2012 with the Cubs and will compete with David DeJesus to win the starting center field job.
Life in the NL Central may not get any easier for the Cubs in 2013. Scott Hairston was the only upgrade to an anemic lineup, and he has never been a full time player. Without the Astros, the Cubs will be staring at last place in the NL Central. The team of Epstein and Hoyer have already given one franchise its first World Series in decades. If they plan on bringing The Commissioner’s Trophy to Wrigley, they have their work cut out for them.