The Chicago Cubs are not expected to be serious contenders in 2014. The development of their young players mean much more to the Cubs this season than wins and losses. While the roster is not good enough to be competitive just yet, they have plenty of intriguing young talent that should have the team back on the right track soon.
The Cubs have a nice core of young and talented position players at both the MLB level and in the minors. While they do have some interesting arms, the pitching talent is lagging behind. On Friday, the Cubs signed free agent pitcher Jason Hammel to a one-year-deal. Hammel was a nice addition for depth purposes, but he is unlikely to make a huge impact.
While the Cubs have plenty of starting pitching depth, they severely lack top of the rotation options. Tommy Hanson is the one pitcher remaining on the open market that makes a ton of sense for the Cubs. Coming up in the Atlanta Braves‘ system, the 27-year-old right-hander was once one of the best pitching prospects in the entire game. In fact, before the 2009 season he was ranked the 4th best prospect in the game by Baseball America.
Hanson had a ton of success early in his career with the Braves, striking out batters with a mid-to-upper 90s fastball and a lights out curveball. Since his early success with the Braves, Hanson has struggled with injuries and has been ineffective when healthy. Before the 2013 season, the Braves traded the oft-injured pitcher to the Los Angeles Angels for relief pitcher Jordan Walden. Hanson was incredibly ineffective with the Angels, and the team decided to non-tender him this offseason.
All the injuries over the years have declined Hanson’s velocity which appears to be the main reason for his struggles. That being said, plenty of other pitchers have overcome lost velocity to become effective again. Hanson is still a young pitcher with plenty of upside. He may not have the raw “stuff” that he did before, but I believe Hanson can still turn things around with the right development and the Cubs have plenty of time to let him grow in the minors.
With his recent struggles, Hanson will probably have to accept a minor league deal this offseason. Because of their lack of potential top of the rotation options, the Cubs need to take a flyer on Hanson if they believe there is the slightest chance he regains his past form.