11/8 Pitching, pitching, pitching
Now that the Cubs have a manager in place, the next step is to stock the roster, and Theo Epstein said they are in the market for more pitching. Next week, Epstein will have face to face talks with representatives for free agents and start possible trade talks at the GM meetings. The Cubs have traded 40 percent of their starting rotation the last two seasons but Epstein said they are not looking for free agents who they can sign and then flip at the Trade Deadline.
“Every starting pitcher we acquire is someone we hope is starting Game One of the World Series for us,” Epstein said.
Last offseason, the Cubs courted free agents Anibal Sanchez and Edwin Jackson. Sanchez signed with the Tigers and went 14-8 with a 2.57 ERA in 29 starts, while Jackson agreed to a four-year, $52 million deal with the Cubs and finished 8-18 with a 4.98 ERA in 31 starts.
“We believe there’s a lot better ahead for Edwin Jackson,” Epstein said of the right-hander, who led the Majors in losses. “He stayed healthy for the entire season, he’s still only 30 years old, and his underlying performance was better than the stat line that you read on the scoreboard and he never quit. He’s certainly somebody who can impact us and fill a rotation spot going forward.”
Jackson will join Travis Wood, Jeff Samardzija, and Jake Arrieta in the Cubs’ 2014 rotation, but Epstein would like to add another starter. The Cubs will talk to Scott Baker, who spent the year rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and now is a free agent, but the right-hander also is exploring other options.
The Cubs also are in the market for a closer. After Carlos Marmol struggled and was then traded, and Kyuji Fujikawa was injured, Kevin Gregg stepped in and totaled 30 saves for the third time in his career. He’s now a free agent and shopping around.
“We have guys who could close,” Epstein said of the Cubs’ in-house options, “but I think that’s an opportunity for us. If you go to market with the closer’s role ready to bestow on somebody, that can help you sign a pretty good pitcher and can help your club. … We’re going to hit the market with a full closing opportunity to offer to the right pitcher we acquire, either through free agency or a trade, and know we have some interesting options in house.”
One of the players currently on the roster who could close is right-hander Pedro Strop, acquired from the Orioles in the Scott Feldman deal.
– Carrie Muskat