It is safe to say that the Chicago Cubs have interest in just about every mid-rotation free agent starter. So far, we have heard that the Cubs have expressed interest in Jon Garland, Javier Vazquez, Jeremy Bonderman, Kevin Millwood, Aaron Harang, and Vicente Padilla. However, the top candidates that Cubs are looking at appear to be Vazquez, Harang, and Padilla. As the Chicago Sun Times reports that General Manager Jim Hendry has had conversations with the agents of all three.
It appears that Vazquez is the top target, as it has been reported that the Cubs expect to make a push towards signing Vazquez over the next month. However, considering that there are several teams interested in Vazquez, he likely will be out of the Cubs price range. However, I feel that Vazquez is the best option for the Cubs. Mainly because he typically goes over 200 innings pitched, and gains a lot of strikeouts during a season.
The Cubs should stay as far as they can from Vicente Padilla. For those who felt that Carlos Silva has been the worst starting pitcher in baseball for the past several years, it can easily be argued that Padilla was equally as bad. It goes far beyond his skill set, prior to being a member of the Dodgers, he was with the Rangers. While with the Rangers, Padilla had many character issues and was one of the worst teammates in all of baseball. That’s right, Milton Bradley was a better teammate to the Rangers than Padilla was. However, since being with the Rangers, Padilla spent the past 1 1/2 seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers. With the Dodgers, Padilla has shown that he can succeed in the National League. As in 8 starts with the Dodgers in 2009, he was 4-0 with an ERA of 3.20. In 2010, Padilla had a record of 6-5 in 16 starts with an ERA of 4.07. However, Padilla has had a hard time staying healthy over the past two seasons. But, considering that Padilla is a ground ball pitcher, he may find success pitching in Wrigley Field. Padilla should be in line for a short term deal that is incentive laden.
Aaron Harang may be the most intriguing option available for the Chicago Cubs. For one, General Manager Jim Hendry has always liked Harang as pitcher for the Cincinnatti Reds. Also, Harang had a run of two straight 16 win seasons with an ERA in the mid 3’s prior to the 2008 season. Since then, Harang has been the victim of a bad Red’s offense in 2008 and 2009, and injuries of late. Harang has a combined 18 wins in his past three seasons, with an ERA of 4.77. When healthy, though, Harang is a very solid option for a mid rotation starter. If healthy, Harang has the potential to go over 200 innings pitched for a season. However, Harang is historically a fly ball pitcher, which may not be ideal for the homer friendly Wrigley Field in the summer.
While the Cubs top two options appear to be Jon Garland and Javier Vazquez, it is more likely that they will wind up with either Padilla or Harang. Of the two, I would rather have Harang, because I’m not confident in the character of Vicente Padilla.