Manager banter is normally pretty innocuous, but on Sunday Lou Piniella actually spoke words that imparted useful information, though it was probably by accident.
“You look at our starting pitching here for next year,” Piniella said. “You’ve got (Carlos) Zambrano, you’ve got (Ryan) Dempster, you’ve got (Randy) Wells, you’ve got (Ted) Lilly, you’ve got (Tom) Gorzelanny, and you’ve got (Jeff) Samardzija, who is going to go to winter ball. And if this kid keeps improving, he’ll be right in the mix. So we’ve got six nice arms.”
Conspicuous by his absence from that rundown is Rich Harden, who has been shut down for the season and will be a free agent this off-season. Doesn’t take a genius to infer, then, that Harden will not be retained by the Cubs, unless the plan is to re-sign him and make him a relief pitcher.
Harden, as we know, has a great arm, and can be dominating for stretches, but has problems staying on the field and can sometimes kill himself with control issues. He is basically Kerry Wood, with fewer surgeries.
Clearly, the Cubs are interested only in guys with reliable arms, hence their decision to part ways with Wood before this season. Hence their impending decision to part ways with Harden.
This will leave them with an aging Dempster, a headcase Zambrano (yes, I know, one of these days he’s going to mature), the steady Lilly, a rookie sensation in Wells who may or may not stick, a tweener sort in Gorzelanny and Mr. Samardzija, about whom the less said, the better.
Still think the Cubs should go after an arm this off-season, but who knows what budgetary restrictions will be placed on Jim Hendry. It could be a quiet hot stove season for the Cubs.