What We Have

Ryan Dempster – Demp made $12.5 mil in 2010 and is scheduled for a little bump in 2011 to $13.5 mil. He has the option in 2012 as to whether or not he’d like to return to the Cubs at $14 mil. My guess is that he will, and I don’t mind one bit.

Carlos Zambrano – There are a lot of questions as to Zambrano’s future with this team. He did exactly what you’d want to see if you’re going to shop him in the offseason, and that’s win. In his final 11 starts, he put up crazy numbers: 8-0, 1.41 ERA, .183 batting average against. Now the question becomes “Is that the real Zambrano or is it the childish kid that under performs?” It’s been well documented here on this site that I dislike him, but I’m going to take the chance that maybe he really has turned the corner. I know I’ll probably get burned again by him, but those numbers are too good to ignore, especially when he’s not really taking the place of anyone better on the roster. Obviously if someone comes sniffing around and will blow you away with a package that doesn’t force you to pay any of his salary then you have to listen, but I actually willing to go one more year with Big Z.

Randy Wells – He’s cheap. Let’s start there. What we have is a different story. I think 2010 was a wake up year for him. He pitched really well in 2009 when no one had seen him. 2010 was a different story and now the ball is in his court to make the adjustments needed to be successful. His ERA in the second half was almost a full point better, so perhaps that’s a glimmer of hope. I still believe, but not as strongly as I did at the end of 2009.

Carlos Silva – It’s no secret that this guy is my boy. He’s my favorite pitcher on the staff, and I have no idea why. I love the fact that he doesn’t walk people, but really I think it’s just because I really like watching portly pitchers throw. I have no idea why, but I look at them and see durable guys that can throw it 100 mph. Obviously neither is really true, but it’s fun to think it anyway. He’s scheduled to make $11.5 mil in 2011. Ugh!!! However, $5.5 mil of that is being paid by the Mariners this year, which means Silva comes in at a very affordable $6 mil, which is a bargain if he continues to do his best Batman impersonation.

Tom Gorzelanny – He’s eligible for arbitration again this year so we’ll probably see another one year deal to avoid that mess. I have to wonder if he gets angry at the lack of respect he’s received from both the Pirates and the Cubs in terms of his ability as a starter.

What is on the Horizon

Casey Coleman - He came on nicely down the stretch for the Cubs, so you’d have to think he at least deserves a look in spring training. I look at him as a guy that can get a few spot starts, but I don’t know that I’ve got him penciled in there as a legit starter until I see more from him.

Jeff Samardzija – His best role is going to be a starter. It seems like the Cubs have finally realized that. I really want to see him get a legit shot at winning a starting job this spring. I think he can win it and be successful.

Jay Jackson – 2010 was the first time Jackson saw any difficulty in his development. Prior to that, he’d been rocketing through the system. He’ll return to AAA and I think he’ll work things out to get back to top prospect status before the end of the season. I like this kid a lot.

Chris Carpenter – He’s not ready at this point, but he’s got good potential. Like Jackson, I need to see more from him, but I like him.

What is Available via Free Agency

Cliff Lee – He’s the prize pitcher on the market this year and I’m not touching him. Yes, I’ve seen how dominant he’s been this post-season and I know he can be a legit ace for this team. I’m not going to get into a bidding war with the Yankees for his services. I’ll take my money somewhere else.

Jon Garland – He was originally drafted by the Cubs, spent some time with the White Sox and most recently with the Padres. He’s as consistent as consistent comes.

Brandon Webb – He’s coming off an injury, but you have to look at what he’s done in the past and at least be intrigued.

Dontrelle Willis – He makes this list because I’m curious. He was once in the system for the Cubs before being traded to Florida.

Aaron Harang – The Reds have a $12.75 mil option on him for 2011 with a $2 mil buyout. I’m guessing they’ll let him go. He could be a bargain this off-season.

Joe’s Best Course of Action

There are the majority of people out there that want to spend the money on Lee. I’m not one of them. My plan is to address the starting rotation with a ML signing and a few minor league rolls of the dice. I start by making a quick offer to Jon Garland, if he doesn’t return to San Diego, before Lee has a chance to really drive up the market. He’ll get you 200+ IP and will win 12-14 games. That’s all we need at this point for a position that can be considered a strength for this team. If Garland decides to stay in San Diego then I make a smaller push for Harang. I think both Garland and Harang can fill a need on this team and can be had for little money and number of year committment.

At the minor league level, I roll the dice and offer minor league deals, with incentives should they make various benchmarks in the Majors, to Brandon Webb and/or Dontrelle Willis. Both have high upside and, if they’d sign a deal like this, could be a huge find.

Three Questions for Discussion (Now with a bonus 4th question)

1. Go on record right now and answer this question. Are you a Carlos Zambrano believer or not? Will we see the return to glory in 2011 or was the end of 2010 a mirage?

2. Which Randy Wells will we see this year, the 2009 Randy or the 2010?

3. Do you believe in Carlos Silva?

4. What is your plan for the 2011 starting rotation this offseason?

Joe’s Roster So Far

C – Geovany Soto /  Robinson Chirinos

1b – Adam Dunn / Micah Hoffpauir

2b – Blake DeWitt / Jeff Baker / Darwin Barney / Akinori Iwamura

SS – Starlin Castro

3b – Aramis Ramirez

OF – Alfonso Soriano / Marlon Byrd / Tyler Colvin / Kosuke Fukudome

SP - Ryan Dempster / Carlos Zambrano / Jon Garland / Randy Wells / Carlos Silva

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Joe Aiello is the founder of View From the Bleachers and one of the lead writers as well as host of VFTB Radio. Growing up in Chicago, he fondly remembers attending games in the bleachers before that was the popular thing to do. Currently Joe resides in North Carolina with his wife and three kids. Connect with Joe via Twitter / Facebook / E-mail