Written by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)
Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
Follow us on Twitter! @OS_Report The moment has finally arrived! This week, pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training and will commence workouts! It makes the chilled Ohio air feel a little bit warmer just knowing that in a little over a month, it will be Opening Day. So it is, with warm and happy thoughts, that I give you The Cubs Column: Pitchers and Catchers Edition.
The Starting Rotation
The Cubs locked down their number one starter for at least another year, signing Jeff Samardzija to a one-year $5.345 million deal, avoiding arbitration as well. Now, the interesting thing to watch will be whether or not the Cubs try to move him as the trade deadline draws near. If we’re being honest, the Cubs are nowhere near where they need to be, so they may still need to ship a few more players out of town as they continue to rebuild. If Samardzija continues to perform as consistently as he has the past couple of seasons, I wouldn't be entirely surprised if the Cubs deal him away as July 31 draws near. Right now, Cubs.com projects the starting rotation to look something like this: Jeff Samardzija – R Travis Wood – L Edwin Jackson – R Jake Arrieta – R Chris Rusin – L The top three spots seem to pretty much be locked up (Samardzija and Wood because of talent and Jackson because they paid him a stupid amount of money to suck badly last season). But those last two spots will be the subject of some steep competition this spring as Jason Hammel, Justin Grimm, and a trove of non-roster invitees battle it out for the jobs. Jason Hammel was signed to a one-year deal this off-season. He started for the Orioles on Opening Day last year but was hampered by injuries. Apparently the Orioles weren’t impressed, so the Cubbies figured they’d kick the tires on him. With any luck, Hammel will perform strongly and be traded off for new talent like Paul Maholm and Scott Feldman before him. Justin Grimm came to Chicago in the Matt Garza trade. He was used mostly in relief last September and will have a shot to win a starting job. He’s still young, so if he can perform well, the Cubs might have a viable option in Grimm for several years to come. The Bullpen This off-season, the Cubs signed a proven reliever in Jose Veras. He should fill the closer role nicely while the Cubs wait for Pedro Strop to develop into the closer they want him to be. Wesley Right adds some left-handed depth to the bullpen, which makes me happy because I can’t really trust the inconsistency that is James Russell to be the only lefty coming out of the bullpen. Other than that, the bullpen needs some help. I’m hoping that we see some strong outings this spring so that one of the big black spots of the 2013 team can be fixed for 2014. The Up and Coming Talent
You may have heard that the Cubs have been rebuilding and developing this awesome farm system over the last few years. Well, we are starting to see some of the fruits of that labor as some of these new guys are starting to develop and are looking to compete for a starting job. Pierce Johnson is an up and coming starter who realistically should see MLB action in 2015 or 2016. With the rebuilding process in full swing, it’s unlikely that the Cubs will rush him along too quickly. But if Johnson dominates during the spring, it will be hard to send him back down. CJ Edmonds is an interesting prospect for me. In my mind, his lanky build (6’2” and 155 lbs.) reminds me a little bit of Ebby Calvin "Nuke" LaLoosh (the pitcher from Bull Durham for you uncultured folks out there) and frankly, his stuff does too. He still needs some time to develop at the double and triple-A levels, but his 1.86 ERA in single-A is nothing to sneeze at. I look for him to grow into his frame a little bit and break into the big leagues next season. Catchers While Wellington Castillo is the team’s future behind the plate, he is still a little raw, so the Cubs have brought in George Kottaras to help back him up and mentor him. Kottaras is a career .214 hitter and played with the Brewers for a few seasons. If you ask me, he sounds like the perfect backup…knowledgeable, experienced, just good enough to fill in but not good enough to take the job from the incumbent starter. Dioner Navarro is long gone. He was a good guy to have around last year. Let’s face it, when you are losing almost a hundred games for two years straight, you need a little comic relief in the clubhouse. But with Castillo firmly entrenched as the Cubs future, and Navarro wanting a long term deal, it was only inevitable that the two sides would part ways. Well ladies and gentlemen, that wraps up the Pitchers and Catchers edition of The Cubs Column. The Cubs certainly have some questions to answer this spring. I’m not one to think that his year is the proverbial “next year” that most Cubs fans romantically fantasize about, but I do think that the Cubbies should win a few more games and start looking like a big league ball team again.
Stay tuned for the next edition of The Cubs Column where I will discuss the rest of the Cubs roster. I hope you have a great week and as always…GO CUBS GO!