For the past two seasons, starting pitchers have been lucky to last the duration of the year at the Friendly Confines. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have routinely flipped solid starting pitchers for talent in hopes of building the franchise up for the long-haul.
With that in mind, according to Jon Morosi of FOX Sports, Chicago is one of four teams reportedly interested in Baltimore Orioles right-hander Jason Hammel, who worked through an injury-plagued 2013 season.
The 31-year-old Hammel has a career record of 49-59 with a 4.80 earned run average in 215 games – 158 of which were starts. He has pitched with Tampa Bay, Colorado and most recently, Baltimore over the course of the past eight years.
In 2012, Hammel showed signs of being ready to finally make the turn, posting a career-best 3.43 ERA in 20 starts for Baltimore, but, as mentioned, injuries derailed those hopes last season.
Chicago’s 2014 rotation currently projects as follows: right-hander Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson, Chris Rusin and Jake Arrieta. That being said, Samardzija is likely to draw offers from teams once the ongoing posting debacle surrounding Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka is sorted out.
Wood had a career year in 2013 for Chicago, pitching 200 innings for the first time in his career, while Jackson struggled, and is expected to bounce back in a big way next season.
Adding an arm like Hammel could solve two problems for Chicago. Should he pitch above expectations on a one-year deal – which he will likely look to do in hopes of re-establishing his value – the Cubs could flip him to a contender at the deadline, similar to what the team did with Scott Feldman in 2013.
If the front office elected to keep Hammel, he could fill either the back end of the rotation or provide long-work out of the bullpen – an area of concern for the team heading into next season, evidenced by the Cubs’ recent connections to Washington relievers Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard.
Either way, Hammel seems to be a low-risk, potential innings-eater for the teams interested in him, including the Cubs. Others rumored to be ‘in’ on the right-hander include the Pirates, Royals and Braves.