Goat Reader Alex Walsh wrote us recently with the following: I'd love to read your take on what the Cubs' 12-man pitching roster ought to be, both now and in the future. You could talk about the 5th starter's spot, as well as the bullpen roles of each guy, etc. etc.
Alex, as promised, this article will answer that request. Of course, Lou Piniella has yet to return one of my phone calls, but even if this isn't what the Cubs will do, I will submit that it's what the Cubs should do.
First and foremost, it's almost certain that this will be the Cubs rotation the rest of the way:
SP Carlos Zambrano
That's the easy part, although it's debatable if Marquis is the best 5th starter.
In terms of the bullpen, these are the likeliest options:
Mop-Up: Bob Howry 53 IP, 5.09 ERA
Scott Eyre 11.1 IP 7.15 ERA
Middle Relief: Jon Lieber 44.2 IP 3.43 ERA
Neal Cotts 20.2 IP 3.48 ERA
Sean Marshall 32.2 IP 4.13 ERA
Michael Wuertz 38 IP 3.55 ERA
Set Up: Carlos Marmol 61.1 IP 3.52 ERA
Jeff Samardzija 8.1 IP 2.16 ERA
Chad Gaudin 12.2 IP 2.13 ERA
Closer: Kerry Wood 44.2 IP 3.02 ERA
That's 10 options for 7 positions. If I'm Jim Hendry, the first move is to re-evaluate the #5 starter. Jason Marquis just isn't cutting it. Here are the options:
Jason Marquis 6-7 4.68 ERA
Sean Marshall 1-2, 4.38 ERA as a starter
Jeff Samardzija 0 starts so far, but damn good so far
Chad Gaudin 3-2, 3.75 ERA in 6 starts
Jon Lieber let's ignore his 1 start this year and still argue he's better
I'd submit that any of these guys are better options than Marquis, but the bullpen is hugely important to the Cubs. Of this group, Samardzija has perhaps the best future as a starter, however, at this point he's been huge to the Cubs as a set-up guy. Lou's going to probably want to keep him in that role this year. Marshall, while respectable as a starter, also serves an important role as a lefty pitcher. Lieber and Gaudin are perhaps the best two options, although I'd probably be most inclined to try Gaudin first, as he's had more success as a starter this year. Therefore, I'd turn Marquis into the long-inning mop-up guy, and Gaudin would become the new #5 starter.
For the pen, first and foremost I would call Bob Howry and Scott Eyre into a room, shake their hands, thank them for their 2.5 years of work, and send them on their merry way.
Next, while I would like to return Wuertz to the pen, as I believe he's a very competent middle reliever, at this point I'm hard pressed to be convinced that he's any better than Lieber. For that reason, Wuertz stays in Iowa until the Cubs can unload Marquis. I dunno, maybe they can waive him, let somebody claim him, and wave him goodbye. Maybe they can find a taker, although it's unlikely at this stage that he has any trade value. Regardless, my bullpen will look like this the rest of the year:
Mop Up: Marquis, RHP
Middle Relief: Sean Marshall, LHP, Jon Lieber, RHP, Neal Cotts, LHP
Set Up: Marmol, RHP, Samardzija, RHP
Closer: Wood RHP.
If Marquis stays in the rotation, I move Lieber to mop up and Gaudin to middle relief. If Lieber stays injured, I return Wuertz from Iowa. But none of this is possible so long as the Cubs keep Howry and Eyre. One way or the other, those dead-weights need to be tossed overboard. The Cubs need to move forward and think about winning, rather than loyalty.