The Cubs’ interest in Brandon Webb is well documented at this point, but according to MLBTR, they’re falling behind in the bidding for his services. I’ve spent a lot of time this offseason debating whether another starting pitcher would be a worthy investment for this team, and I’m in agreement with what I think most people believe; given the depth that’s already in the rotation, as well as the importance of giving Andrew Cashner a fair crack at starting– not to mention the team’s strict payroll constraints– there aren’t many pitchers on the market this offseason that make a lot of sense for the Cubs.
I’ve argued they could make an exception for Webb, though. Given the low-risk contract he’s gonna have to settle for, taking a flier on a former Cy Young winner seems like a potentially good investment in both the near and long term for a team that’s trying to contend without mortgaging its future. Webb is on the mend from a pretty serious shoulder injury, so it’s not likely that he returns to Cy Young form immediately, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again– opportunities to bring in pitchers of this caliber at a discounted price just don’t come around all that often. It would take some work to figure out how exactly he’d fit into the rotation, but given the potential rewards to be had on an investment like this, it’d be worth making happen somehow.
However, now that Kerry Wood is back in the fold, and with the resulting news that Andrew Cashner is being told to prepare like a starting pitcher for next spring, the lack of a vacancy in the rotation might complicate things enough for the Cubs to ultimately miss out on Webb. As of right now, Dempster, Zambrano, Wells, Gorzellany and Silva are penciled in as starters, so Hendry may have to find a taker for someone just to get Cashner into the mix. There’s always the chance that one of Wells Silva or Gorzellany will be put in the bullpen to start the year, but doing so would potentially do a number on one of those guys’ trade value.
Realistically, Gorzellany and Silva are the only guys who might be on the block, and moving one of them would obviously only create one opening, which ideally would go to Cashner. I suppose Randy Wells could also be made available, but he’d be a tough sell to some teams because of his ugly win-loss record from last year, and besides, he’s both good and cheap enough for the Cubs to hang on to. Meanwhile, both Gorz and Silva missed enough time last year that potential takers for these guys might be worried about how many innings they can count on them for.
That said, they’re both relatively affordable (the Mariners are paying $5.5MM of the $11MM Silva is due in 2011) and are safe bets to present value to a number of teams at the prices they’ll come. In an ideal world, Hendry could just find a taker for Silva and the $6MM he’s on the hook for, but something tells me his will be a tough market to build-up until he takes the mound this spring and shows that he’s healthy and he can pick up where he left off last year. Gorzellany is a nice asset, who could actually yield decent value in a trade, but he’s the only lefty in the rotation right now, and it may be a bit premature to sell on him. Silva is probably the more expendable option, but Gorz is the most imminently movable pitcher on the roster, and he’s probably the only guy Hendry could quickly find a taker for.
But herein lies the problem: we’re having a hard time drawing up a scenario that would make room for one other starter. So assuming the Cubs are serious about Cashner getting the shot he deserves, it might be really tough for them to make room for both him and Webb. There’s always some way they could make it work, but it could even be that selling Webb on coming to a place where there isn’t even an opening for him is a tall task. Above all else though, I think most would agree that Cashner needs to be given this opportunity no matter what, so if signing Webb would mean he’s stuck in the bullpen, then I’m not on board.
Supposedly the Texas Rangers are in on Webb, and they certainly have the money to spend and the need for ground ball pitchers. I could see Webb preferring to make his comeback in the NL where he’d just have an easier time navigating opposing lineups, but I’m beginning to think the Cubs are long shots to sign him. It would definitely add some excitement to next year to see a former Cy Young winner take the mound at Wrigley, but I’m not getting my hopes up anymore.