The Chicago Cubs definitly need some help in the rotation and they’re rumored to be looking for an arm in free agency this winter.
With three spots locked for Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood and Edwin Jackson and a possible fourth for Jake Arrieta, who impressed last season, the Cubs have one spot available and they would be wise to fill it with an experienced pitcher that can come at a discount price.
Much has been talked about a possible return of Jeff Baker, who spent the whole year rehabbing and was able to make three starts in September this past season for the Cubs, but no other pitcher would be a better fit than Josh Johnson.
The right-hander spent last season with the Toronto Blue Jays, but he was limited to only 16 games due to injury. He finished the year with a 2-8 record and a 6.20 ERA. He struck out 83 batters and walked 30 in 81.1 IP, and his numbers weren’t stellar by any means, but he does have some qualities the Cubs need for this season.
To start, he will come off an injured year, so Theo Epstein and company should be able to sign him at a discount. His peripherals were much better than his actual stats: he struck out more than one batter per inning (9.2 K/9) and limited the walks (3.3 BB/9). His WAR was a career-low -1.5, but his poor season can be explained by health issues and his transition to the AL.
The fact that he has successfully pitched in the NL at a consistent rate can’t be forgotten, and he’s still very young at only 29 years of age, so there’s plenty to like about him. He looks poised to have a comeback year and if he’s able to pitch like he did when he was with the Miami Marlins, then the Cubs would have a solid pitcher for years to come. It’s definitively a risk worth taking.