This was a deal that looked like it was only a matter of time heading into the winter.
The Chicago Cubs were in need of a bit of starting pitching depth coming into the winter, having traded away a number of their starters over the course of the last two seasons. They made a strong run at Masahiro Tanaka but ultimately came up short in the bid to land the Japanese righty. That left them looking for at least one starter out on the market, and up against Tanaka, that backup plan was going to be underwhelming.
That underwhelming signing came today in the form of Jason Hammel, who agreed to a one-year, $6 million deal with the Cubs. He’ll fill out the back end of their rotation in what could be a very solid starting five for a Cubs club that should be able to demonstrate at least marginal improvement in 2014. At worst, he’s a pretty low-risk option for the Cubs as a no. 5 starter.
Hammel had a strong 2012 campaign, although in only 20 starts, for the Baltimore Orioles, but regressed quite a bit last season. He posted a 4.97 ERA and a 4.56 FIP pitching in front of the best defensive team in baseball. His WHIP jumped up from 1.24 in 2012 to 1.46 last year, and he recorded less strikeouts than his career average would indicate that he should.
At one point during the 2012 season, Jason Hammel was beginning to look like a legitimate mid-rotation guy for the O’s before he fell apart in 2013. Nonetheless, he should be a quality addition, for a decent price, for the Chicago Cubs. He’ll fill out a rotation that will likely feature Jeff Samardzija (pending a trade), Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson, and Jake Arrieta.
Between Samardzija and Wood at the top, the upside that Arrieta has and demonstrated last year, and a potential bounce back year from Edwin Jackson, this Cubs rotation could surprise some folks in 2014. Of course, it likely won’t be nearly enough to get them anywhere near sniffing a playoff berth, but it’ll help them as they try and demonstrate progress in this lengthy rebuild.