I doubt the Cubs will be seriously involved with top tier free agents Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez, because both players are tied to draft pick compensation. Matt Garza does make some sense, but I highly doubt he will return to the team that traded him just six months ago. Bronson Arroyo has been mentioned by some, but at 36-years-old, I do not think he fits into the Cubs’ window of opportunity.
As they have done many times before, I think that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer will buy low to add to their starting rotation. Former Cub Paul Maholm is an interesting option, but the guy who I think they should be targeting is Jason Hammel.
Hammel is a 31-year-old right handed pitcher who came up with the Tampa Bay Rays, has also pitched for the Colorado Rockies and spent the last two seasons with the Baltimore Orioles. If they bring in Hammel, the Cubs will be hoping for the 2012 version of the pitcher (3.43 ERA and 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings), and not the 2013 (4.97 ERA and 6.2 SO/9).
Hammel’s fastball has some natural sink, and he has always been a pitcher that relies on ground ball outs. He seemed to struggle at keeping the ball down in 2013, and I believe that directly impacted his poor season. The Cubs should bring in Hammel just so pitching coach Chris Bosio can get his hands on him. Bosio is one of the best pitching coaches in the league, and he seems to do an even better job with ground ball pitchers. I believe that Bosio would help Hammel get the ball down in the strike zone, and he would see positive results from that.
Coming off of his poor 2013, the Cubs should be able to bring Hammel in on an inexpensive one year “prove it” deal. Who knows, maybe Bosio finds something, and Hammel becomes a solid back of the rotation starter for this team heading into the future.