Chicago Cubs Projected Pitching Rotation
Jeff Samardzija Leads Revamped Rotation for Cubs in 2013
When you lose 101 games it’s easy to point to the pitching staff as a reason for the team’s struggles and when you look at the 2012 Chicago Cubs. However, for the most part the starting rotation was pretty decent until Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm were traded and Matt Garza was lost for the season with an injury.
The lone bright spot in the rotation after the departures was Jeff Samardzija. The former Notre Dame wide receiver started to fulfill some of the potential that former general manager Jim Hendry had for him when he was drafted in the fifth round. Primarily pitching out of the bullpen for the majority of his major league career, Samardzija had a career-year after working as a starter in the minor leagues the year before and could develop into one of the top pitchers in the National League in 2013.
Replacing the departed Dempster and Maholm will be difficult, but the Cubs signed four free-agents with starting experience and hope a strength-in-numbers approach will prove beneficial. Edwin Jackson was the biggest addition to the rotation and should approach 200 innings. Scott Baker was signed despite recovering from Tommy John surgery and could be a good signing if he’s healthy. Carlos Villanueva and Scott Feldman have experience out of the bullpen and in the rotation and will likely rotate back and forth between those roles depending on the health and production of those in the back of the rotation.
Here’s how I see the pitching rotation stacking up for the Cubs to start the season.
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Wood came to the Cubs from the Cincinnati Reds in the trade for Sean Marshall and the former No. 2 pick in the MLB draft showed a flash here and there of his potential on the mound despite his record of 6-13 suggesting otherwise. In Wood’s final 13 starts he had a 3.57 ERA, but didn’t receive much run support and had a 2-7 record in those starts. If Wood can carry his late season momentum into 2013, the left-handed pitcher will find a spot in the rotation, and being a lefty will be another bonus on his resume.
Villanueva signed a free-agent deal after being a reliever and starter with the Toronto Blue Jays and gives the Cubs options to use him out of the bullpen or as a starter. I think he signed with the Cubs with the intent on being a starter which is how he closed out his 2012 season and his team went 8-8 when he started and earned a quality start in nine of his 16 starts. If Villanueva falters as a starter, then Scott Baker who is recovering from Tommy John surgery could be inserted into the rotation with Villanueva heading to the bullpen.
Jackson is trying to pitch for every team in baseball it appears as the Cubs mark the eighth team he’ll pitch for when he takes the ball in the Cubs third game this year. Jackson sports a lofty 4.40 ERA and a 70-71 career record, yet he cashed in during free agency getting a four-year deal from the Cubs for $52-million. Jackson will be paid to be an innings-eater for this team that needs quality starts from the back-end of the rotation and he has nearly averaged 200 innings pitched the last three seasons.
Garza was on the verge of being traded in all likelihood before being injury on the precipice of the trade deadline in July, and figures to hear his name in trade rumors leading up to the deadline this year as well. He is as talented as any pitcher in baseball, but for whatever reason is 15-17 as a Cubs starter despite a respectable 3.52 ERA. I think Garza will command a contract that far outweighs his production on the mound and therefore the Cubs will like to trade him to a pitching-starved team near the deadline in 2013 and get two or three top prospects rather than sign him to a lucrative extension.
It’s hard to call a pitcher that finishes with a 9-13 record an ace, but that’s what Samardzija was for the Cubs in 2012 in his first season as a full-time starter. He led the team with a 3.81 ERA while striking out 180 batters in 174.2 innings. He has the arsenal to develop into one of the top 25-30 starters in baseball and will look to make a push for the 200-inning threshold and with a better offense supporting him would contend for 18 wins. I’m excited to see how much Samardzija develops in 2013 and is fully capable of dominating every fifth day with his array of pitches.