The fifth starter
With yesterday's trade, nobody knows anymore if Jake Peavy is a real possibility as the next Cubs ace. Luckily Jim Hendry has some options if Peavy isn't coming be they in-house or not.
Some guys who might take turns starting next year ...
Chad Gaudin: Although I want to punch him in his ridiculous face any time I see him on tv, Gaudin's not a bad choice to take a crack at starting. He was 3-2 with an ERA of 3.75 in 6 starts last year, and over the past 3 seasons the 25-year-old has started 40 games resulting in 14 wins and 15 losses. Fairly unimpressive until you consider that he has an ERA of 4.32 over that time while playing in The League With All That Offense, which is undeniably better than the 4.99 ERA posted by Jason Marquis in that same span. Using that keen and indisputable logic, it can therefore be concluded that Gaudin would be an improvement.
Sean Marshall: Maybe you have an older sibling - or hell, a younger one. If you have an older one then you know that there have been times in your life when you have tried desperately to capture the attention of your big brother or sister only to be ignored like a 3AM infomercial. If you have a younger one, then you might not have noticed that he/she is actually pretty freakin' cool sometimes. Sean Marshall is the younger sibling of the Chicago Cubs. He started in 19 games for the 2007 Cubs, where he went 7-8 with a 4.05 ERA. In 2008 Marshall started 7 more times, posting a respectable 4.15 ERA while going an embarassing 1-4. The ERA totals are good, the win-losses don't mean so much, if he's not traded for Jake Peavy then he has to be Lou's top choice to start fifth.
Aaron Heilman: The last time he started way back in 2005, he went 2-3 in 7 starts with an ERA of 4.71. And those are his best totals as a starter. One Goat Reader says that Heilman wants to start in 2009 but I'd honestly rather see the Cubs reverse their trade of Marquis before letting Heilman give up Hail Mary's to the bleachers.
Jeff Samardzija: The Shark should start in Chicago or in Iowa. He had success as a reliever in '08, but using a pitcher his age as a reliever is a waste of his talents. Chances are the Shark will begin the year in Triple A. He may be the first person they turn to if the Cubs have pen trouble or he'll be ready to step into the rotation should somebody get hurt or fail to do the job in the fifth spot.
Jake Peavy: The mere thought of Peavy brings fire to the loins of Cub fans everywhere - and it is apparently a mutual sensation for Peavy. If Hendry can somehow pull this off, then the Cubs will have undeniably the best Chicago starting rotation since the World Champion Cubs of the early 20th century used to have dueling shutouts on a regular basis. At this point some people think the Peavy Trade-0-Meter should be dipping into the red, but I'm not convinced. We'll keep it on lower Meh for the time being.
Ben Sheets: The poor man's Peavy. 2008 was the healthiest season Sheets has seen since 2004, which isn't to say that his arm didn't almost spontaneously combust in late September. The longer Sheets goes without finding a home the cheaper he'll be. The Cubs have no rumored interest in him.
Curt Schilling: File this one under Proof that Bloggers Are Often Wrong. I wrote Schilling a letter last off season begging him to offer his services to the Cubs because he would truly be a legend if he helped reverse our so-called curse as well. Schilling signed with Boston and spent the year watching his arm unintentionally contort into weird shapes. Anyway, my brother EMailed me last week and asked me what I'd think about the Cubs taking a chance on a reclamation project. I said it was probably a bad idea because the rotation isn't exactly invincible with Zambrano, Dempster, and Harden.
Besides, SI writer and injury expert Will Carroll made a point to me the other day...
The Cubs at Wrigley Field are not exactly in what we could call a "state of the art" situation. In fact the trainers and the training facility can only do so much and can often be easily stretched very thin. A reclamation project like Schilling or Sheets would be interesting, but the Cubs staff just might not have the tools-at-hand to keep them healthy - especially with pitchers like Harden and Zambrano being injury risks.
So, with all that in mind, I believe the Cubs should either go Peavy or stay home, if you get what I'm saying. The team has good depth right now and shouldn't have to worry too much about upgrading.