After repeatedly winding up as the bridesmaid on several rumored deals for starting pitchers this offseason, the Cubs finally locked down some new starters for the rotation Thursday. Yes, you read that correctly–starterS. Plural.
Rumors swirled most of the morning that the Cubs were lining up to sign Edwin Jackson to a 4-year deal, with varying reports on the value of the contract. But just as I was emotionally preparing myself for the Nationals (his previous employer) or some other team to swoop in and claim him at the last minute, news broke that the team had upped their all-important Guys Named Carlos Quotient with the addition of Carlos Villanueva. And then–surprise, surprise–they went ahead and locked up Jackson, too!
If you’re keeping score at home–and let’s face it, you’re reading a Cubs blog in the dead of the offseason on what’s likely your last day in the office before Christmas, so you probably are–that gives the Cubs plenty of options with which to craft their starting rotation. Good options. Some combination of Jackson, Villanueva, Matt Garza, Travis Wood, the Scotts (Baker and Feldman), and The Dread Pirate Samardzija. It looks to me like Theo and Jed weren’t satisfied with the pitching “talent” they were forced to bring up at the end of the season, and are determined not to find themselves in a similar situation next season.
So I just deleted a couple long paragraphs about what these signings might mean for the Cubs moving forward, and how Theo and Jed’s rebuilding plan is apparently shorter than some of us projected. But the truth is, there’s no way to know what they mean right now, except that Theo and Jed aren’t waiting around to grow their pitching talent from within. Obviously the pitching cupboards are bare in the minors–we’ll all saw just how bare last season. Bringing in free agent arms was always the plan, but I thought they would be the more low-rent guys like the Scotts or even Villanueva–cheap at $10M for 2 years. Jackson’s not a placeholder deal, and no matter how hot he might start off, I’d be shocked to see him get Maholmed away any time soon.
My takeaway–if you can take away anything solid from one free agent signing–is that Theo and Jed haven’t changed their commitment to growing from within, but that they also aren’t content to be handcuffed to that growth and live and die by the productivity of the farm system alone. I think it’s a good sign, even if only a small one, and I’m encouraged. I wish pitchers and catchers were reporting next week.
One other note before we quickly mop up the rest of the news: Matt Garza has been a faithful if not occasionally ill-informed cheerleader throughout the offseason, and Thursday was no different, as he welcomed his new teammates with a congratulatory tweet from Disneyland (and yes, I did consider bolting from work and heading down there to stalk Garza and his family around the Happiest Place on Earth–I have a problem). I’m not sure the new additions to the pitching staff help secure Garza’s future with the Cubs. If anything, they probably make it a whole lot easier to trade him. My guess is the Cubs quietly shop him and wait to see how he shows up to camp before making a final decision. If the Rangers keep whiffing on pitchers (they wanted Jackson, too), they might be willing to overspend to get him. I really like Garza and would love to keep him, but I think many people are convinced he has more value to the Cubs as trade bait than as the anchor of their rotation. We’ll see.
Elsewhere, former White Sox catcher and generally unlikable person A.J. Pierzynski agreed to a 1-year deal with the Rangers, meaning former Cub Geovany Soto will have some competition for the starting job.
Former Cub and and concussion victim Adam Greenberg signed a minor league deal with the Orioles. After a long medical lay-off, Greenberg successfully petitioned teams to let him take one at-bat. His wish was granted by the Marlins, and he struck out on three pitches from R.A. Dickey. The new deal with the Orioles potentially allows him to write a more satisfying ending to his story.
I don’t like Derek Jeter, but I dislike him a little less after this.
Thankfully, the NFL spared us another in a long line of unfulfilling Thursday night games this week. But I couldn’t resist linking to this story–as a way to say thank you for helping him rush for more than a 1,000 yards this season, Arian Foster gave his linemen Segways.
And for your sake, I hope this is the worst story you read today.