Probably the strongest part of the team for the Chicago Cubs is the starting rotation. Travis Wood had an incredible 2013 season, Jeff Samardzija is proving himself as a very good starting pitcher and Edwin Jackson is as consistent as they come. As their record the past couple of seasons indicates, the Cubs have many holes to fill. The offense is bad and the bullpen is probably worse. If the starting pitching is the strength of the team, why would they worry about that and not the real issues of the team?
First of all, you can never have too much starting pitching. Injuries are extremely common with pitchers, and you do not want to get stuck rushing a guy who needs more time in the minors. Also, when there is a value on the market you are almost always going to be better off with that player on your team. Starting pitcher Phil Hughes is a free agent that I think has nice value.
The Cubs have done a very good job the past couple of seasons at signing free agent starting pitchers with value. Before the 2012 season they signed Paul Maholm to a team friendly deal as he was coming off of an injury. Maholm went 9-6 for the Cubs with a 3.74 ERA before they shipped him to the Atlanta Braves for a bundle of prospects including Arodys Vizcaino, who is currently one of the top pitching prospects in the Cubs’ system. Before the 2013 season, the Cubs signed Scott Feldman to a team friendly deal. Feldman was 7-6 with a 3.46 ERA before the Cubs sent him to the Baltimore Orioles for Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop. Arrieta appears to have a nice future as a starter for the Cubs and Strop looks to be the closer for 2014.
Both of those deals worked out incredibly well for the Cubs. They saw a value in free agency and were able to get a nice performance out of them before shipping them off for younger pieces. Hughes is a little bit different than those guys. At 27-years-old, he could become a core player for the Cubs. Hughes was once a top pitching prospect for the New York Yankees, but he has never been able to put it together at the Major League level.
I will admit, Hughes’ high home run rate does concern me, but after seeing the work that pitching coach Chris Bosio has done with Cubs’ pitchers the past couple of seasons I would like to see what he could do with Hughes. The stuff is there for Hughes, but he just elevates his pitches way too often. Bosio has had a ton of success with the Cubs at teaching pitchers to keep the ball down and get ground ball outs.
It appears that Hughes will be looking for a one or two year “prove it” deal. He just needs to learn how to keep the ball down, and with his current diminished value I would like to see if Bosio can work some magic on him. If the Cubs can bring him in for cheap I do not see why he wouldn’t be worth a flyer.