Please forgive me for the Moneyball references, because I watched the movie for the first time this past weekend. But, as was portrayed on the movie, the Oakland Athletics attempted to use their available resources on players that were in a need of a change of scenery, or looking for a bounce back season. That is the philosophy that the Chicago Cubs practiced last off-season with the signings of outfielder David DeJesus and starting pitcher Paul Maholm, and the trade for third baseman Ian Stewart. The signings of DeJesus and Maholm turned to out to be successes for the Cubs’ front office, while the trade for Stewart turned out to be a failure. That is the risk you run with these type of moves.
Nonetheless, expect the Cubs to implement the same strategy this off-season. The Cubs have a significant amount of money coming off the books in terms of expiring contracts, and general manager Jed Hoyer has already admitted that the Cubs were going to be active in the free agent market this off-season. The main focus for the Cubs this off-season, will be improving the quality of their starting pitcher. Jeff Samardzija has silently emerged as the potential ace of the rotation, while Matt Garza figures to return healthy and ready for Spring Training. Beyond Samardzija and Garza, the Cubs are extremely thin at the starting pitching position. Travis Wood has been effective this season, and it would seem that there is a decent chance that he will remain in the Cubs’ rotation for 2013. Meaning in all likelihood, the Cubs will enter the off-season with two open spots in their starting rotation.
While the free agent market for starting pitchers is filled with names like Jake Peavy and Zack Greinke, expect the Cubs to target current Chicago White Sox pitcher Francisco Liriano. The 28 year old Liriano is 6-12 on the season to go along with an ERA of 5.34. Liriano has struggled in each of the past two seasons, and command of his pitches has been one of his biggest issues. However, Liriano has showed flashes of being an effective starting pitcher.
Liriano may not be on the same level that Maholm was when the Cubs signed the former Pittsburgh Pirate last winter, but the former Twin should interest Theo Epstein and the Cubs’ front office. Reason being, the National League is believed to be inferior to the American League. Meaning starting pitchers that switch from the American League to the National League, generally establish consistency and effectiveness as a starting pitcher. Ted Lilly would be a prime example for this concept. Liriano is clearly in need of a change of scenery, and fits the criteria of the type of starting pitcher the Cubs may be looking for this off-season. Because of that reason, expect Liriano to be among the Cubs’ top targets.