The Winter Meetings do not begin until next week, but the Cubs front office has already been busy this off season. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have done a great job addressing the most glaring need ahead of the 2013 season: starting pitching. If you have kept up with Cubbies Crib and any sports media outlet in general, you are already aware that that need was addressed with the signings of Scott Baker and Scott Feldman.
Assuming no injuries to the projected staff and another terrible Spring Training from Travis Wood, the names on the list of candidates for the rotation is set at five. That will leave the Cubs time in the Cactus League to focus on getting each starter stretched out by Opening Day and just sorting the order of the rotation.
We may not even be in the month of December yet, but it is not too much of a stretch to make an accurate projection of how the rotation may be set. With Ryan Dempster out of the picture since July 2012, the Opening Day starter honors figure to be Matt Garza’s to lose. The former Ray’s combination of stuff and resume make him the natural lead candidate.
After the break out season Jeff Samardzija had as a pitcher period, much less as a starter, The Shark is in line to snatch the second spot in the rotation. The Cubs organization, with the future of both the team and the pitcher in mind, shut down Samardzija’s season early last year. That reflection of the projected success the former Notre Dame wide receiver has ahead of him makes him a logical candidate to take the ball every game after Garza.
The rest of the rotation is where most of the debate will occur. In a perfect world, Wood builds on his good second half of the season with the Cubs and seizes the third spot on the staff. This is the preferred scenario because as a lefty, Wood would provide a nice contrast and divider to the rest of the rotation that is right hand dominant. At age 25, Wood still has plenty of time to fulfill his potential.
Feldman is my pre Spring Training pick to take the fourth slot. Feldman started 21 games last season, but also made a handful of appearances out of the pen for the Rangers. Feldman comes to the Cubs with the understanding from Epstein and Hoyer that he will be given every opportunity to earn a starting job.
That leaves Baker as the remaining name left to be penciled in. He pulls up the rear because Baker is coming off of Tommy John surgery that caused him to miss all of the 2012 season. As a result, in terms of injury potential, he is the first candidate that could see a set back. Having Baker as the fifth starter would buy him a couple extra days of rest to start the season in April, which typically sees off days scheduled at a rate more than typically found the rest of the year.
Again, barring injury, this is the projected order of arms the Cubs will head into the 2013 season with.