The Chicago Cubs continue to stockpile starting pitchers. Multiple reports are surfacing on Wednesday that the Cubs are finalizing a contract with free agent starting pitcher Carlos Villanueva. The terms of the deal have yet to be reported, and there has yet to be an official announcement. Nonetheless, it would appear that this prospective signing will not have the same fate as the Cubs’ reported signing of Anibal Sanchez last week.
The 29 year old Villanueva has experience as both a starting pitcher and a reliever. Villanueva spent the 2011 season with the Toronto Blue Jays where the pitcher posted a record of 7 and 7 to go along with an ERA of 4.16 and a xFIP of 4.09. With the Blue Jays in 2011, Villanueva made 16 starts while compiling 22 appearances as a reliever. Villanueva fits the the mold of pitchers that the Cubs’ front office looks for–no, he has not had Tommy John surgery–but the pitcher has pitched better than what his ERA may indicate. Villanueva will likely get an opportunity to be in the Cubs’ starting rotation to begin the 2013 season. A rotation that already includes Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, Scott Baker, and Scott Feldman. Baker, who is coming off of Tommy John surgery, may not be ready for the start of the season. Meaning Villanueva could start the season in the rotation and then move to the bullpen once Baker is ready to pitch in the 2013 season.
The signing of Villanueva will not remove the team from the sweepstakes for free agent starting pitcher Edwin Jackson, The Cubs, along with the Texas Rangers, are believed to be the final two teams in discussions with Jackson. A report this morning from Ken Rosenthal suggested that the Cubs could be considered the favorites as Rosenthal does not expect the Rangers to be the high bidder for Jackson. The San Diego Padres were also involved in the Jackson sweepstakes, though the team pulled out after refraining from upping their offer to four years. That would suggest that the Cubs offer to Jackson is for at least four years. Unlike Villanueva, Jackson would certainly be signed to be a starting pitcher. If that weren’t the case, then the Cubs would not be offering the free agent pitcher four years.
The fact that the Cubs remain intent on signing Villanueva and Jackson is a bit peculiar. The reason is that would give the team seven starting pitchers on the Major League roster. That may indicate that the Cubs may be concerned with the rehabs of Garza and Baker. Though, Garza has given every indication that he will be ready for the start of the 2013 season. Baker is far less of a certainty. The notion that the Cubs may trade Garza before the season starts should not be overlooked. Even though the chances of Garza being traded before the season are unlikely because the pitcher has not pitched in a Major League game since July, it certainly is not impossible. Especially if a team is willing to include a talented, young third baseman.