The Cubs’ 2011 Rotation

Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells, Tom Gorzelanny and Carlos Silva may not be utterly dominant, but they will provide the Cubs with certainty this winter and quality innings next season. If healthy, those four starters should account for most of Chicago's rotation in 2011. They won't be enough, of course. The Cubs will need a fifth starter, too and while Carlos Zambrano could continue improving and fill that role, it may not be that simple.

The Cubs will likely consider trading Zambrano but their offseason doesn’t hinge on making a trade, like it did a year ago when they flipped Milton Bradley for Silva. Zambrano's season reached a low point when he got into a dugout shouting match with Derrek Lee, but he has pitched well since returning from the restricted list. He has a 2.25 ERA with nearly a strikeout per inning since the end of July, but is walking more batters than usual, which is something, considering Zambrano has a career walk rate of 4.1 BB/9. 

If the Cubs hold onto Zambrano, they probably won’t be in the market for starting pitching, since they have other internal candidates who could fill in. But if they trade Zambrano – and it wouldn't be easy given the $17.875MM he makes in 2011 – the Cubs would have an empty rotation spot and could consider signing a free agent starter.  The caliber of that starter might depend on the savings from a Zambrano deal.

But even if GM Jim Hendry doesn't like the options on the free agent market, he has a number of potential starters in the organization. Jeff Samardzija and Casey Coleman could contend for a rotation spot if one opens because of a trade or injury. Samardzija has a high walk rate in Triple A this year (5.4 BB/9), so he'd probably have to show the Cubs that he can limit free passes. Coleman has posted a 5.81 ERA in the majors and has walked more batters than he has struck out, but his Triple A numbers were much better (4.07 ERA, 2.7 BB/9). Baseball America noted before the season that Coleman has a good feel for pitching, which isn't surprising since his father and grandfather pitched in the majors leagues before him.

Sean Marshall and Andrew Cashner are both contributing out of the ‘pen now, but the Cubs could stretch them out if necessary. Marshall has been one of the National League's best left-handed relievers this year, but he started games regularly from 2006-09. Cashner's used to starting, too; he had a 2.05 ERA as a starter in the upper minors this year before the Cubs called him up.

Thomas Diamond started three games for the Cubs this year, but has struggled to limit walks. The former first rounder has faced just over 100 batters in his major league career, so it seems more likely that he'll pitch in the minors or the bullpen for now. Chris Archer, who doesn’t turn 22 until later this month, posted a 2.34 ERA with 9.4 K/9 in the minors this year, but he has appeared in just 13 AA games, so he will need time to develop. 

Remember that, in all likelihood, the Cubs will have a new manager by Spring Training. That means the fifth spot in the rotation depends not only on the team's offseason moves, but on their new manager's preferences. It's too early to predict how it will all unfold, but we can safely say that Zambrano appears to be the leading candidate to be the team's fifth starter. If the Cubs trade him, they may consider free agents or turn to internal options like Coleman, Samardzija, Marshall and Cashner.


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21 Comments on "The Cubs’ 2011 Rotation"


thejerkstore
4 years 10 months ago

I think two other guys they will consider in spring training are Jay Jackson & Chris Carpenter – especially if Ryno is the manager. Marshall has been too good this year to move. Diamond reminds me of Joe Borowski for some reason (maybe it is all the walks). I would send him to AZ this winter and have him work on that cutter his developing.

Dave_Gershman
4 years 10 months ago

Good call on those two. I see Jay Jackson as maybe someone they can sell low on and dangle. Maybe to get some Major League Bullpen help.

moonraker45
4 years 10 months ago

Yah… welll… the jerk store call, they’re running out of you!

coachofall
4 years 10 months ago

Looks like another long year in the Windy City! Aging roster, high Salaries, and league avg or below pitching.

4 years 10 months ago

I think Cliff Lee will be a Cub and take them to a World Series win. I bet you I am wrong though.

Dave_Gershman
4 years 10 months ago

I bet your wrong as well.

Guest
4 years 10 months ago

If there isn’t a vendetta to move Zambrano, then I think they would be wise to hold on to him this winter. Seems like it would be better to pay him his full salary and pray he returns to form rather than pay a significant chunk of his salary to play for someone else. It would really suck to pay him big money to return to form for another team. And unless they think Cashner or Marshall will morph into an ace next year, I bet he gives them similar production to anyone else out of that 5th starter role

amuro316
4 years 10 months ago

I agree generally with this article. They just need to jettison alot of salaries (but can’t) and it’ll be a few years before they can contend again. It’s a shame, because if Lee and Aramis were healthy the past two seasons (at differing times) they’d have been a good playoff contender. I do like their pitching staff, alot. Would not mind the Mets trading for Dempster.

Bob George
4 years 10 months ago

It would shock me if Coleman has a big league future. He’s the most hittable pitcher I’ve seen in years, he fools nobody. Samardzija is inconsistent, even in AAA, and has an attitude too, complaining after his call up a couple of days ago that he should have been recalled sooner. That’s despite being horrible in his last couple of big league shots.Carpenter is supposed to be an actual good prospect, throwing 95, but he’s very young and might still need another half or full season in AAA. Jackson is probably the best bet to actually have any success in the majors next season, but because Samardzija is out of options and has a major league contract, Jackson might have a hard time getting on the roster barring an injury.

4 years 10 months ago

what do you know about anything carpenter is older then coleman and jackson stunk in the last half get a life

4 years 10 months ago

I really can’t see bringing in a FA pitcher, unless they resign Ted Lilly. I would say that you would want to get at least one of the Silva, Dempster, or Big Z’s contracts off the books first. I would really like to see Cashner given a legitimate shot at the rotation in spring training.

4 years 10 months ago

I don’t really see the logic of moving Zambrano. He’s overpaid but he got that big contract for a reason, he’s is or was a good pitcher and has shown the last half of this season that he still is and still can be. He had problems this year of his own making and is getting help, combined with the fact that Lee, Piniella and perhaps others are gone or going. I’d make it clear to him that it’s not his team, he’s not the number one starter, won’t be pitching opening day and needs to toe the line. Seems like a heck of a lot better thing to do than trading him and getting pennies on the dollar while paying a huge chunk of money. Does anyone have any doubt that if he’s traded he end up pitching well for his new team?

The big problem I see with the rotation isn’t quantity, it’s quality. There isn’t a bad pitcher among the main four or five but there aren’t any aces either. Dempster is a number two or three on a good team. Zambrano isn’t an ace anymore though he could be if he had his head on straight. You simply can’t count on that anymore. Wells, Gorzelanny and Silva are all four/five types. The Cubs actually need a guy like Lee to lead the staff and push everyone else down to a spot where they’re better utilized ( I realize spots in the rotation usually only line up early in the season but playoff baseball is all about matchups.) Some of the Cubs prospects look pretty good at this point but none are likely to be good starters next year or ROY candidates. It looks as though a middle of the pack rotation is what they can count on next year unless something unforeseen happens.

Bernaldo
4 years 10 months ago

Silva’s history in Minnesota was good year followed by bad year. I’d bet the house that Silva is much more likely next season to have a lousy year than a back-to-back good one.

The_Porcupine
4 years 10 months ago

Well, I’d stick with the rotation you have already and not try to sign anyone. The other poster is correct, the problem is the lack of quality starting pitching not a lack in quantity. Really, the only starters with trade value would be Dempster and maybe Marshall. With their current offense, they aren’t going to win next year. So why pursue a high priced starter in a weak free agent pool. Hold serve, let some prospects develop and wait for the bigger free agency period after next year.

Ferrariman
4 years 10 months ago

2011-2012 free agent group isn’t very strong either for pitching. for hitting, yes, but not pitching.

The_Porcupine
4 years 10 months ago

You are correct. In 2 seasons, the farm system may pay off with a high ceiling pitching prospect by 2012 and they can focus their spending on the offense. Right now, there is just no reason to sign a high impact pitcher (to big money), when you are not in a position to win in the next year. My opinion is that you don’t spend big on pitching until you’re ready to win, since the health and consistency of pitching is so much more volatile and unpredictable. By 2012, they’d be able to shed some salary, develop a couple of prospects (hitters and pitchers), pick up 1-2 offensive players, and perhaps trade for an impact starter.

bw831
4 years 10 months ago

Randy Wells has been terrible this year. I can’t believe he’s still on my rotis roster. I should have cut the bum. If the Cubs run him out there net year they will not win. Let one of the young guys get the starts.

Ferrariman
4 years 10 months ago

i don’t think their gonna win one way or another….

4 years 10 months ago

Zambrano is a real tough case. I thought they should have traded him last winter. People back then said the same things that were mentioned above. I understand he has great stuff but I seriously question if he will ever get his head right. Thought the same thing last winter. At least he had actual trade value last offseason before this mess. I do agree that we would probably just get stuck with some low level prospect and a large chunk of salary still on our books.

It really comes down whether or not management wants to get in rebuilding mode and just dump as many bloated contracts as possible. My gut feeling is that we should keep him as a back end rotation guy. Maybe the demotion will actually humble him (doubtful), but at least we can get production for our team instead of someone else’s.

The_Porcupine
4 years 10 months ago

I feel like they should try Zambrano out as a closer. He did poorly as a middle reliever, but the pressure of the late innings and his ego need to be a superstar should motivate a better performance. And shorter outings and less innings might reinvigorate his power arm. The Cubs will never be able to trade him without eating his contract and they will probably struggle to get any return for him. Right now, he’s a #3-4 starter, a dime a dozen. He might be more valuable in trade if he shows success as a closer.

What to do with Marmol? Trade him while his value is highest. He’s overpowering, but not consistent. And a good closer is a luxury for a team that isn’t going to win.

Wrek305
4 years 10 months ago

Z would be worse then Marmol as a closer.. Zambrano needs to go plain and simple.. What the need to do with Ramirez is let him pick up is option and send him and his entire 2011 salary away to Mexico or somewhere like that.. Do the same with Soriano send him and his remaining contract out of chicago for anyone.. They have the money it need to be done.. The Ricketts are complete douche turds.. they know nothing about baseball at all.. they claim to be Cubs fans since 1984.. good year for the Cubs that year hhaahahah