The most prized free agent of 2013 is now officially off of the board with the signing of Masahiro Tanaka. The Chicago Cubs were rumored to be one of a handful of teams to make an offer to the starting pitcher, but like 28 other teams in the league, the Cubs were left at the table for Tanaka’s services.
The major question that now faces the Cubs is how the starting rotation will fill out for the upcoming season. Chicago has All-Star Travis Wood and Edwin Jackson already penciled into slots. Discarding the win-loss record, Wood has put up nice numbers since joining the Cubs. He has made over 50 starts in two seasons, and last year saw his highest output for strikeouts and innings in his career.
Jackson signed a hefty deal a year ago, but underperformed in 2013. However, Jackson has made over 30 starts each year since 2007, and he eats up innings. Jackson’s stuff can be electric at times, but what seems to be his undoing his the one inning a game that eats him up. The talent is there — it just has to be harnessed every fifth day.
Chicago also will have a major decision to make on the future of Jeff Samardzija. He is still under contract for the next two years, but a decision will need to be made sooner rather than later on either signing Samardzija to an extension, or making the leap of faith and trading him for pieces in return. Making a decision before the end of 2014 will determine who just may be the ace of the staff once the influx of talent is called upon within the next two years.
With Tanaka now off the board, there are still quality arms available that would even cost less than Tanaka’s asking price. Ervin Santana is a name that deserves consideration on the North side. Santana made $13 million in 2013, and is reportedly asking for a five-year, $100 million contact. Sound a tad pricy? There are guys such as Ian Kinsler and Dan Uggla who also made $13 million a season ago.
Santana’s last winning season was back in 2010, but much like Jackson, his stuff is capable of being lights-out on a regular basis. Santana has also made at least 30 stars each of the last four years, with three of them ending with an ERA in the 3.00s. Switching over to the NL, would a four or five-year deal in the $90 million range be enough to get Santana in the Cubs’ starting rotation?
A signing like that would save Chicago around $60 million compared to Tanaka. It would also give them another starter that tosses around 200 innings and who logs chunks of strikeouts among the starting five. The Cubs’ rotation was actually a positive in 2013, and it could be one signing away from being a positive once again in 2014.
Nick Schaeflein is a Chicago Cubs writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ptchr2424 or add him to your network on Google.