Randy Wells Rumors

Cubs To Make Run At Sheets

TUESDAY, 11:50am: MLB.com's Carrie Muskat tweets that Cubs officials say Sheets' current asking price does not fit their budget.  Sheets' agent Casey Close could stand to do a better job controlling the information on his client, because the reports of a $10-12MM demand make him look bad.  Muskat says the Cubs are still looking for right-handed relief.

MONDAY, 8:58pm: As Ken Rosenthal guessed last week, the Chicago Cubs are set to make a run at free agent pitcher Ben Sheets, the Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan reports.

According to Sullivan, Cubs GM Jim Hendry contacted Sheets' agent during the Winter Meetings. Sheets is reportedly asking for two years and a guaranteed $10-12MM per year, though the Cubs believe "they have a good shot at landing him with an incentive-laden deal."  MetsBlog's Matthew Cerrone believes Sheets is aiming for a second-year player option.

Sullivan sees Sheets slotting in nicely in front of Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster and Ted Lilly in the Chicago rotation, with Randy Wells and newly-acquired Carlos Silva also serving as starting options.  With Lilly coming off of arthroscopic shoulder surgery, and little recent success from Silva, it is hard to imagine the Cubs want to roll the dice with Sheets. However, they did acquire Rich Harden in July 2008, so high-risk, high-reward pitchers may just be how the Cubs roll.

Tim Dierkes contributed to this post.

Cubs Not Looking To Retain Rich Harden?

The Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan writes that the Cubs have no plans to bring back Rich Harden, as alluded to by manager Lou Piniella.  Prior to losing the final road game of the season to the San Francisco, Piniella ran down the 2010 rotation.

"You look at our starting pitching here for next year," Piniella said. "You've got (Carlos) Zambrano, you've got (Ryan) Dempster, you've got (Randy) Wells, you've got (Ted) Lilly, you've got (Tom) Gorzelanny, and you've got (Jeff) Samardzija…And if this kid keeps improving, he'll be right in the mix. So we've got six nice arms."

Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Piniella characterized the starting five as being "pretty settled."  Wittenmyer feels that Gorzelanny has a leg up on Samardzija and Sean Marshall for the fifth slot. 

Zambrano, despite his personal frustration, could once again be an elite pitcher.  The 28-year-old ace is discouraged by his depressed win total, but still managed to post a 3.69 ERA with 8.0 K/9 – a marked improvement over his 6.2 K/9 in 2008.  Lilly has had what you could call a career year at the age of 33, recording all-time bests with a 3.02 ERA and 4.21 K/BB ratio.  Dempster's HR, BB and SO rates are in the neighborhood of where they were last year, when he garnered national attention.  Wells put up a strong 3.18 ERA on the way to becoming the first Cubs rookie to notch 10 wins since Kerry Wood.

Are the Cubs in good enough shape to let Harden sign elsewhere without having to sift through the lackluster available starting pitchers?  Let's hear your thoughts in the comments section.