The priority for the Chicago Cubs front office this off-season was to improve the quality and depth of the team’s starting pitching options. The front office was successful in doing so as they added Edwin Jackson, Scott Baker, Scott Feldman and Carlos Villanueva; all of whom have experience as starting pitchers and serve as a large improvement from the quality of starting pitchers the Cubs had at the end of the 2012 season.
On top of the four starting pitchers that were signed this off-season, the Cubs have an emerging top of the line starting pitcher in Jeff Samardzija, and Matt Garza returning from a season ending injury he suffered in July. There is no question who the first three starting pitchers will be in the Cubs’ starting rotation. Jackson will serve as the team’s third starter, and Cubs manager Dale Sveum will announce at some point in March whether Samardzija or Garza will be the team’s opening day starter with the other being the team’s second starter. Meaning the last two spots in the Cubs’ starting rotation will be Baker, Feldman, Villanueva, and/or Travis Wood.
On Thursday, Sveum offered clarity on the last two spots in the Cubs’ starting rotation while also updating the status of Baker, who is returning from Tommy John Surgery.
“Feldman’s going to be one of the starters,” Sveum said Thursday. “There’s an above-average chance Baker’s going to probably start a little bit late, just because you don’t want to really rush him. There’s no need for anything like that.” CSN Chicago
Feldman struggled last season with the Texas Rangers as the pitcher posted an ERA of 5.09 in 29 appearances (21 starts). But, Cubs fans should not be discouraged by Feldman’s 2012 season as his ERA may not be an indictment of his performance. In 2012, Feldman’s FIP was 3.81; a mark that was significantly better than his ERA. Meanwhile, Baker did not pitch in the 2012 season as he began his rehab from Tommy John surgery. When healthy, though, Baker has the potential to be a top of the line starting pitcher. With the Minnesota Twins in 2011, Baker posted an ERA of 3.14 (3.45 FIP) in 23 appearances (21 starts). Early indications are that Baker may be ready by late April.
In Baker’s absence, Travis Wood may be the leading candidate to be the fifth starter. Wood was impressive with the Cubs during the 2012 season. Wood posted an ERA of 4.27 last season while starting 26 games for the Cubs. One benefit for Wood is that he is the only left-handed option being considered for the Cubs’ starting rotation.