Apparently, when they set out on their shopping this winter, the Chicago Cubs made it their goal to acquire every free agent on the market. While that’s obviously hyperbole, the front office has successfully put together what is one of the deepest rotations in all of baseball.
So far this offseason, the Cubs have added Scott Baker and Scott Feldman, while also agreeing to deals with Edwin Jackson and Carlos Villanueva. Both Baker and Feldman agreed to one-year pacts, while Jackson and Villanueva have verbally agreed to four and two-year deals, respectively. They’ll join the likes of Jeff Samardzija, Matt Garza, and Travis Wood on the Chicago staff.
Unless you’re the Colorado Rockies, there obviously isn’t room in the rotation for seven starters. Meaning two of these guys are likely bound for long relief, pending a trade of Garza or Wood headed to Iowa to grab some starts at the beginning of the year.
We have something of an idea of how an Opening Day rotation will look, assuming they all leave spring training healthy and Garza is still around, the latter of which seems unlikely at this point. But as things stand right now, only three of these guys are absolute locks to be in the starting five.
Those three are Garza, Samardzija, and Jackson. Garza will start Opening Day, if his isn’t traded before then, and the trio could end up making up the first three starters in the rotation, in order. Beyond that, it’s not as simple.
Scott Feldman is an interesting case. He’s ideal in a swingman role, but the Cubs apparently guaranteed him a rotation spot. Which means he’s probably the no. 4 guy to start the year. If he fails as a starter, he moves to the ‘pen.
Which would leave the fifth spot on Opening Day between Wood and Villanueva, since Baker likely won’t be ready to start the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last year. When he does return, it will be interesting to see how that shakes out. But between the two, Travis Wood deserves the final spot.
He had a very nice second half last year, and should have a spot reserved for him already, pending another spring training meltdown. Which means Villanueva will fill that swingman, spot starter role, unless his spring performance ends up earning him something bigger than that.
Beyond those seven, there are other options that have been stretched out in winter ball, or will be in spring. Folks like Chris Rusin, Brooks Raley, Alberto Cabrera, and Michael Bowden fit that bill.
One thing is certain: the Cubs are serious about rotation depth. When an injury or trade does happen this year, the Cubs will be better prepared for it than any other team in baseball.