In an industry flooded with new money, the Cubs continue to make smaller, safer bets on the free-agent market.
The Cubs are taking a shot with right-hander Scott Feldman, who on Tuesday agreed to a one-year deal worth 6 million, plus 1 million in possible incentives, and they arent done shopping yet.
The Cubs think Feldman can throw strikes, follow the game plan and get groundballs for a potential Gold Glove infield. They expect him to pitch with confidence after switching back and forth between the bullpen and the rotation with the Texas Rangers. They hope he will benefit from getting out of the American League and the Ballpark in Arlington.
The Cubs were like a dream scenario for me, Feldman said, getting to play for an organization with that type of history, in a city like Chicago with the great fans.
Two weeks ago, the Cubs made a similar investment in Scott Baker, who didnt even throw a pitch last season for the Minnesota Twins. Building his strength back up from Tommy John surgery, Baker will get 5.5 million, with built-in incentives that could be worth an additional 1.5 million.
The Cubs knew heading into this offseason they would need to add at least two legitimate pieces to their rotation. With two already signed before agents and executives even check into the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, Tenn., for next weeks winter meetings are they just looking to add depth, or are they prepared to make bigger guaranteed commitments?
Its so early in the offseason, its hard to really assess that kind of question, general manager Jed Hoyer said. Two of the main guys we targeted going into the winter were Baker and Feldman. We felt like both guys were very similar in that we thought they could benefit coming to the National League. We thought they both have some upside left. Theyre both still young. They were the two guys we really focused on (with) one-year deals.
Whether we would add a guy on a multiyear commitment, I think that depends on the player and the opportunity for us.
Stay tuned to see whether Shaun Marcum or Brandon McCarthy or someone non-tendered by Friday becomes the right player at the right price. But the stress reaction in Matt Garzas right elbow is still healing. Baker and Arodys Vizcaino are recovering from Tommy John procedures. And there will be attrition. All together now: You cant have too much pitching.
Were still going to continue to look for talent, Hoyer said. If that talent is in the rotation, then we wouldnt consider ourselves done. We would certainly add someone else. But were excited about the two guys weve added so far and we think theyll provide a lot of quality innings for us.
As far as where the rotation stands right now, were still looking to get better, still looking to add talent all over the team.
Feldman will be 30 years old next season and to this point had spent his entire career in the Rangers organization, going 39-44 with a 4.81 ERA in 204 games (101 starts). He went 6-11 with a 5.09 ERA in 29 games (21 starts) last season.
Feldman won 17 games for the Rangers in 2009, and earned the Opening Day start in 2010. But he hasnt come close to that level since, in part because knee surgery wiped out part of his 2011 season. Team president Nolan Ryan and pitching coach Mike Maddux also developed a surplus of elite arms.
(Feldman) did sort of have one foot in, one foot out, Hoyer said. I think he felt like he was looking over his shoulder a lot. If he made a bad start, he might not necessarily make another one or might be in the bullpen. We certainly gave him the reassurance here: Youre going to be a starting pitcher. Youre going to be in the rotation.
(That) means a lot. Its hard to perform when youre always constantly worried about (your) job.
Six minutes into his introductory conference call with the Chicago media, Feldman was asked about the possibility of being flipped at the trade deadline. Five days after Thanksgiving, his response sounded like this was the middle of July.
Thats out of my control, Feldman said. I hope that I can pitch here this year and do well and stay here for a long time. But that kind of stuffs out of my control. Theyre going to do whats best for the team, not only this year, but for the long-term. Im just glad that Im here and consider myself lucky to be a part of this organization.
The question was legitimate because people are skeptical about the front offices motives for 2013. After losing 101 games, Hoyer was asked how you sell these signings to Cubs fans.
Were certainly not done with our offseason, Hoyer said. Whether were coming off a 101-loss season or coming off a 90-plus-win season, youre always trying to find value on the free-agent market, and we feel like both Baker and Feldman provide (that). Our approach is not going to change based on the previous year. Youre always looking to find guys that you feel can outperform their contract.