The Chicago Cubs need starting pitching. The Iowa Cubs need starting pitching. The Tennessee Smokies need starting pitching. The Daytona Cubs need starting pitching. At every level in the Chicago Cubs’ organization, there is a clear lack of talented starting pitchers. The backbone to any quality farm system is starting pitching. The Cubs’ currently are a farm system without a backbone as the team simply does not have impact starting pitchers in their organization. Chicago Cubs President Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer are well aware of the team’s dire need for starting pitching. That is why the team has added Travis Wood, Chris Volstad, Jaye Chapman, and Arodys Vizcaino over the past year. Those additions would appear to improve the depth of the starting pitching position within the organization, though, Volstad has already seen his Cubs’ career come to an end.
This winter will be no different. The focus for the Chicago Cubs front office will be to add starting pitching at nearly every level of the organization. Their effort may result in three starting pitchers being added to the Major League team by the time pitchers and catchers are ready to report to Spring Training. The Cubs have been linked to pitchers Edwin Jackson, Francisco Liriano, Brandon McCarthy, and Shaun Marcum. In addition, the Cubs have also been mentioned as a possible landing spot for Josh Johnson if the Miami Marlins decide to trade their starting pitcher.
The best starting pitcher available this winter may be a pitcher that has yet to take the mound for a Major League Baseball. That pitcher is Japanese starting pitcher Shohei Otani. Much has been made about Otani over the past couple of weeks, and the 18 year old has Major League teams vying for his services. Otani has the makeup to be a potentially dominating starting pitcher as the lengthy right hander is capable of throwing a fastball at 100 miles per hour. Otani was the first overall selection of the Nippon Ham Fighters, but the starting pitcher is intent on forgoing his career in Japan and signing with a Major League Baseball team. The issue with this in regards to the Cubs is that this decision would make Otani a true international free agent. This means that Otani and teams interested in the Japanese starting pitcher would be subject to the new restrictions placed on international spending with the new collective bargaining agreement. The Cubs are near their spending limit for the 2012 international signing period, and signing Otani would undoubtedly put them over the limit. Doing so would result in the Cubs having to percentage tax on the overage, and limit the signing bonus the Cubs could give to an international free agent for the following period.
Nonetheless, Nick Cafardo (Via MLB Trade Rumors) reports that the Cubs are among the players for Otani. This comes after Epstein made comments about being skeptical of investing too much into the Japanese market of international players. One of the bigger criticisms of Epstein during his time as Red Sox General Manager was the contract he offered Daisuke Matsuzaka. It is interesting that the Cubs’ interest in Otani was leaked given the tight-lipped nature of the Cubs’ front office. Though, Cafardo likely remains in touch with Epstein–whom he covered in Boston.
The Ham Fighters have until March to sign Otani, but it would appear that the starting pitcher will have signed with a Major League Baseball team before then.