The Rebuild Continues: A Pair Of Pitching Pick-Ups
By Andrew Denny
Never had I assumed the Cubs would make such a splash in the pitching market without chasing down big time free agents this offseason.
Alas, I was wrong. But in retrospect the Cubs have made some moves that really shake up their approach to the season for the better.
Both Carlos Villanueva and Edwin Jackson were signed by the north siders within the last 2 days. Both these deals are now confirmed.
Jackson, who was pretty successful with the Washington Nationals last season. will receive $52 million for 4 years of service. A lot of doubt has been thrown at the value of this deal and whether or not the Cubs overpaid for Jackson, but when all factors are weighted, it’s clear that this deal is not detrimental to the Cubs. Jackson is a workhorse who will go out and throw at least 180 total IP in a season pending his health. While I’ve questioned his pitch selection and his health before, you can’t help but agree that the Jackson acquisition is an upgrade for the team overall.
Oct 12, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals pitcher Edwin Jackson (33) throws during the seventh inning against the St. Louis Cardinals of game five of the 2012 NLDS at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit:Brad Mills
-USA TODAY Sports
It will be interesting to see how the 29 year old Jackson performs in the later part of his contract, as he’ll be somewhat leaving his “athletic prime” age. Odds are he’ll be successful considering his a “swing and miss” type pitcher who doesn’t try to overpower batters, which can then preserve the health of his arm for a longer term.
I would have much rather seen Jackson inked up shorter term, but the pitchers market is inflated as all hell right now and that 4th year made the difference to Jackson. I’m not in love with the deal, but I’m certainly not fuming mad over it.
Carlos Villanueva has also been tossed in to the Cubs pitching mix. The former Blue Jay who made his career out of being a reliever is inked up short term on a 2 year/$10 million contract. This is very affordable considering the potential upside Villanueva posseses and it’s not impossible for him to crack a spot in the starting rotation. I’ve spent a lot of time watching Villanueva work (my sister is a big Jays fan and living in Canada, it’s pretty much all the baseball we ever get without MLB.tv) and I’ve always admired his mix. He’s seemed to have found his rhythm with attacking batters last season posting a very solid 8.76 K/9 ratio relying heavily on a slider/changeup spread to compliment his fastball.
Overall Villanueva is a reliable source of outs who can pitch pretty much out of anywhere. Great pickup considering the price and bullish nature of the market.
It’s interesting to note that the Cubs went from a team who desperately needed pitching depth to a team with butt-loads of pitching depth pretty much overnight. Sneaky moves Mr. Epstein, but what to do with all these pitchers?
The likelyhood is that most of them will see action, but some will be used as trade chips at the deadline in order to gain a solid return on investment. The pitcher’s market is grim in 2013 and many teams would be willing to cough up some solid players for a guy with a hot arm.
Consider this: The Cubs have all these guys scrapping it out for 5 starting spots.
- Scott Feldman
- Matt Garza (who pending his health could be traded much sooner than we think)
- Jeff Samardzija
- Scott Baker
- Travis Wood
- Edwin Jackson
- Carlos Villanueva
- Chris Rusin
All these moves came without breaking the bank, which could be the real positive considering how much other big time free agent pitchers were signed for this offseason.
Either way, it’s an improvement on what the Cubs were looking at the beginning of Winter Meetings. It’s going to be fun to watch the mound by the time spring training rolls around.