Maybe no other pitcher took as much heat from Cubs fans the last couple years as Jason Marquis. Part of it was probably the three-year, $21 million deal Cubs GM Jim Hendry signed Marquis to a couple years ago. That wasn't Marquis' fault.
Hendry unloaded most of that salary in today's trade with the Rockies for reliever Luis Vizcaino. No matter what you may have thought of Marquis, he was a pretty serviceable starter who wanted the ball every fifth day, even if manager Lou Piniella didn't always give it to him. Marquis has won 65 games over the last five years. Even though there are myriad other stats on which to judge a starter and Marquis came up wanting in several of those areas, 65 wins ain't bad for a back of the rotation guy.
To replace Marquis, Hendry is calling on just about everybody in-house while looking for a starting pitcher from outside the organization, whether through free agency or trade. I'm not including Jake Peavy here. He's a special case, and if the Padres' and Cubs' ownership situations ever sort themselves out, Hendry may or may not be able to make a deal for Peavy.
As I said a couple of blogs ago, Hendry is a pretty reactive GM. If he perceives a problem, he reacts. A few years ago, it was the bullpen, and voila, you've got Scott Eyre and Bob Howry. This year, it's left-handed hitting. Out is Mark DeRosa and in, or almost in, are Joey Gathright and switch hitters Aaron Miles and Milton Bradley.
In his talk today with reporters, Hendry harkened back to the days when Kerry Wood and Mark Prior would be injured, and the Cubs were left short. He doesn't seem to want that to happen this year, and that's a real concern, what with the recent shoulder woes of Carlos Zambrano and the chronic shoulder problems of Rich Harden.
So it seems like everybody will get a shot at the fifth spot this year, with lefty Sean Marshall having as good a chance as anybody right now.
"He's made big steps each of the last two years," Hendry said of Marshall. "If he makes another step up and comes into camp and competes and wins the job, then he certainly has the right to stake a claim to that. He proved to us last year that in whatever role we put him in, and as tough as we made it on him, sending him out, sending him back, relief, start, he did a quality job in whatever job he was in. Sooner or later, you'd like to reward that, too.
"In the same sense, you have to get enough depth to where...we knew what we were getting into with Rich Harden, and he's killing himself this winter to prepare himself for hopefully more than 24 or 25 starts. When you're putting your pitching staff together, and we've been put on the other side of this when you lose your 1 and 2, you like to have enough depth that if something went wrong, you're still covered. And that's what we're going to still do. Hopefully, we'll still add another pitcher before Opening Day."
All Hendry said about that was: "We are still going to look into some possibilities."
He also mentioned the names of Jeff Samardzija and Angel Guzman. Samardzija was a starter in the minor leagues before coming up and doing a creditable job out of the pen last year. He was able to throw his splitter effectively to complement his fastball. It's possible the Cubs will have him open at Iowa this year to start and work on his slider.
"We think Samardzija's a starter down the road," Hendry said. "We don't know if he's ready for that yet. But we think that's a possibility for us down the road. We feel good about the depth we have in the pen. A lot of the pen guys, if you look at them on the wall, in the right scenario could be candidates for that job, too. Guzman had a real good winter. He's healthy. He's been a starter before. Kevin Hart's been a starter before. He really finished strong last year. We expected a lot of him early, and he really finished well. We deal with what we have right now. At the same time, we'll continue to try to look at some other avenues if we can.
"I think, by the end of the winter and by the time we get to camp, it'll be a real good ballclub."
In case you missed it, here's a link to the blog written by once-prospective owner Mark Cuban as he tries to explain his part of the process.
Although Cuban seemed attractive to many Cubs fans, the exemption from anti-trust laws that baseball uniquely enjoys would enable the owners to keep Cuban out at their whim.