Waiting on Edwin Jackson, Cubs close in on Carlos Villanueva


Waiting on Edwin Jackson, Cubs close in on Carlos Villanueva

The Cubs did not simply have money leftover after losing the Anibal Sanchez sweepstakes.

Those were unique circumstances for the right player. The Cubs just didnt feel the same sense of urgency as the Detroit Tigers, who were willing to go to 80 million on a five-year deal.

As the Cubs remake their rotation, they will continue with the lower-risk investments. An industry source confirmed on Wednesday night that they were finalizing an agreement with Carlos Villanueva, to add depth and create some competition.

The financial details werent immediately known, but this will almost certainly fit into the sensible, cautious approach team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer have taken this winter. It was harder to gauge their true interest in what would be a bigger catch: Edwin Jackson.

The Cubs acted decisively in November before the market accelerated and signed Scott Baker and Scott Feldman to one-year deals that combined included only 11.5 million in guarantees.

Villanueva figures to at least get a shot in the rotation, considering Baker is still recovering from Tommy John surgery and Matt Garza will have to answer questions about his right elbow.

But versatility has to be part of the appeal. Villanueva is only 29 years old and has made 56 starts and 245 appearances out of the bullpen during his big-league career with the Milwaukee Brewers and Toronto Blue Jays (33-35, 4.26 ERA).

In the Milwaukee organization, Villanueva overlapped with Cubs manager Dale Sveum and pitching coach Chris Bosio. Perhaps they can tap into the starter who appeared to be rolling last season in July (4-0, 1.93 ERA) and August (1-4, 3.41 ERA) before fading in September (0-3, 8.10 ERA) with the Blue Jays.

If you were a swingman looking for the chance to prove yourself as a starter, would you sign with the Cubs if they were about to add Jackson?

Baker and Feldman were sold on the opportunity to showcase themselves on the North Side. The uncertainty surrounding Garzas health would seem to eliminate the possibility of an offseason trade.

Jeff Samardzija could be the Opening Day starter. Travis Wood is an option as a No. 5 starter. Arodys Vizcaino will be taking it slow after Tommy John surgery, but team officials are hoping that he can join the big-league rotation at some point in 2013 and show why he was once one of the top prospects in the Atlanta Braves system.

You can only sell so many spots in the rotation, right?

Of course all together now you can never have enough pitching. And there are enough red flags within this group not to mention the general rate of attrition to make you think the Cubs will never quite feel like theyre done.

Jackson turned 29 in September, which makes him almost six months older than Sanchez. Jackson has made at least 31 starts in each of the last six seasons, proving hes durable. That begins to fit the profile for Epstein and Hoyer, who didnt sign Jackson when he was a free agent last winter.

Jackson took a one-year, 11 million deal with the Washington Nationals the seventh team hes played for in the big leagues and went 10-11 with a 4.03 ERA. That just about falls in line with his career numbers (70-71, 4.40 ERA) as a talented, mid-rotation guy who hasnt quite put it all together yet.

Jackson was involved in the three-way trade that sent Curtis Granderson to the New York Yankees, Ian Kennedy to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Max Scherzer to the Tigers (December 2009).

The White Sox got Jackson from Arizona in the Daniel Hudson trade (July 2010). And the St. Louis Cardinals fortified their bullpen for a run to the World Series title by packaging Jackson in a deal with the Blue Jays (July 2011).

Its worth noting that people whove known Jackson say hes a good guy in the clubhouse, that moving around so much shouldnt be viewed as a mark against his personality.

The Cubs, Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians are among the teams rumored to be in on Jackson, who could be looking for a home after pitching for six teams in the past five seasons.

Jackson would have to take a leap of faith with this front office, which refuses to give out no-trade clauses, views no one as untouchable and wont be afraid to sell off pieces at the deadline if it fits their long-term vision.

The Cubs have no doubt analyzed the numbers and decided how Jackson could provide value and where it no longer makes sense. They wont feel desperate or be forced into doing something. The Sanchez negotiations last week again showed they know how to walk away.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Looking ahead to the Cubs in the World Series


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Looking ahead to the Cubs in the World Series

“Carmen and Jurko” from ESPN 1000 and Justin Roman from US 99’s “Stylz and Roman” join David Kaplan on the SportsTalk Live panel.

They reflect on a surreal Saturday night as the Cubs’ clinched their first pennant in 71 years. Plus ESPN 1000’s Jesse Rogers and Fox Sports’ Jon Morosi join Kap from Cleveland to preview Game 1 of the World Series.

Listen to the SportsTalk Live Podcast below:

Road Ahead: Kyle Schwarber's potential World Series impact

Road Ahead: Kyle Schwarber's potential World Series impact

CLEVELAND — Kyle Schwarber is expected to be in the Cubs' lineup for Game 1 of the World Series, representing a wild, improbable comeback.

Schwarber tore his ACL and LCL during the first week of the regular season in a collision with Dexter Fowler in center field.

Now, more than six months later, he's back and deemed ready to go after appearing in Arizona Fall League action the last three days.

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

CSNChicago.com's Patrick Mooney and Tony Andracki break down Schwarber's potential impact in the Honda Road Ahead and why everybody is so drawn to the "Fast Hulk."

As Mooney says, the Cubs even had front office members running up to their suite during the pennant celebration Saturday night at Wrigley Field to watch Schwarber's at-bats down in Arizona. 

But with Schwarber back, that presents another ripple on the Andrew Miller storyline as the Indians' superstar reliever already posed a major threat to the Cubs before adding another left-handed bat into the fold that hasn't seen live pitching since early April.

Check out more in the Honda Road Ahead above, brought to you by Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana Honda dealers.