Prior to them tearing it all down last season, the Chicago Cubs actually boasted one of the better rotations in all of baseball. Led by Ryan Dempster, the Cubs were incredibly solid one through five. Before they shipped Dempster and Paul Maholm off, and Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija were shut down for the year.
Heading into 2013, the Cubs have a rotation full of new faces. It’s as deep as any rotation in all of baseball, if not the deepest. They have a staff that could go seven or eight deep. But as far as the talent, is it as good as any rotation in baseball? Potentially.
Assuming everyone is healthy, the Cubs will open the season with one of the more underrated 1-2-3 punches in the league. Samardzija and Garza will head the rotation, followed by the recently signed Edwin Jackson. Shark is coming off of a career year and looks like a potential ace. We know what Garza can do when he’s healthy and his head is on straight, and Jackson is as steady as any starting hurler in the game.
As far as that trio is concerned, the Cubs are set. If Samardzija can build off of 2012 and improve, and Garza can stay healthy, that’s probably a front end that you could see with the Cubs when they’re ready to contend. But what about beyond those three?
Scott Feldman makes up the fourth spot in the rotation. He’s a player flying under the radar heading into the new season, but he shouldn’t be for long. His groundball tendencies will play well at Wrigley Field, on top of the benefit of transitioning from the American League (let alone a hitter’s paradise in Texas) to the National League.
Then you get to the fifth spot in the rotation, which is where things get tricky. Travis Wood, Carlos Villanueva, and Scott Baker will battle it out for that final spot. Wood and Villanueva will earn the right to get a start or two out of the gate from that spot, before Baker likely takes it when he returns from the disabled list in mid-April.
Assuming Baker comes back without issues, he’s the type of guy that many teams would love to have (and will probably have a chance to trade for by July) at the back end of their rotation. He’s not flashy, but he doesn’t walk guys and has pretty decent strikeout numbers. Some teams would take him as a third starter, let alone a fifth.
The Cubs may have the deepest rotation in all of baseball. It’s difficult to dispute that fact. But is it among the best? That’s going to be the question they’ll have to answer in 2013. They have a few guys transitioning from the AL to the NL, which should play into the Cubs’ favor. It’s going to be tough to put them in front of some of the staffs that American League clubs have put together, but there’s no reason to think that the Cubs couldn’t be among the better starting staffs in the NL this season.