COMMENTARY | It's not what Chicago Cubs fans want to hear, but 2014 is probably not going to offer much respite from the doldrums of mediocrity of the previous few years.
The only thing keeping Cubs fans from flipping their proverbial lids is the hope/promise/presumption that this rebuilding plan of Theo Epstein and company is finally going to bring the Cubs to relevance, and eventually to a World Series championship.
The beginnings of that relevance are loosely presumed to be around 2015, when the Cubs' current set of up-and-comers -- think Albert Almora, Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant, etc. -- are projected to start contributing en masse to the big-league club.
Cubs rumors of destiny-changing talent lurking in the minors? Forgive me if I've heard this one before. Felix Pie, anyone?
Historical pessimism aside, the future of the Cubs undeniably looks brighter than the last few years have. And, honestly, three division titles in the last 10 years? For Cubs fans, that isn't too far off from winning the lottery. With 2014 looking more and more like another wash, the Cubs will be looking to sign players in the similar fashion they have the last couple of offseasons -- relatively cheap, possibly injury-prone, low-risk-high-reward type of players.
Often, this refers to starting pitchers. The Cubs will be in the market, and here are three pitchers not namedDavid Price who they ought to consider bringing in:
Masahiro Tanaka - Japan
The Cubs are reportedly very interested in Tanaka. And why not? In 2013, Tanaka went 20-0 with a 1.24 ERA. Landing Tanaka would cost a pretty penny, but the gamble is more fitting for the Cubs' current circumstance than someone like Price.
Tanaka is about to turn 25 and wouldn't require a package of prospects to land. It's reasonable to assume the Cubs would have to pay a hefty bill for an unproven pitcher (in the MLB, anyway), but he could also be a major league-ready rotation anchor who could help the Cubs' rotation immensely almost immediately.
Scott Kazmir (2013: 10-9, 4.04 ERA)
Kazmir, mainly due to injuries, has become almost a forgotten name around the league -- a guy who had a number of respectable seasons around the majors. But he had a reemergence of sorts with the Cleveland Indians last season and, perhaps most important, stayed healthy doing it (29 starts, 158 innings).
Kazmir wouldn't be the team-changer like Tanaka could be, but he could solidify the bottom of the Cubs' rotation and be a potential trade chip should he perform well. At only 29, if he was exceptionally good, the Cubs could consider keeping him as well. His 2013 contract was only $2.75 million (after bonuses), so he wouldn't be too expensive.
Josh Johnson (2013: 2-8, 6.20 ERA)
The Cubs most likely will not sign three starting pitchers. They already have Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, and Edwin Jackson locked into rotation spots. They also have a host of other possible in-house selections -- Chris Rusin, Jake Arrieta, Justin Grimm, Carlos Villanueva.
In light of that, signing Johnson comes with an asterisk: He better come cheap. Really cheap.
For the right price, Johnson could be a steal for the Cubs. If he were to tank, it wouldn't matter since they don'treally need him. He's coming off a dismal season riddled with poor performance and injuries. Not to mention, he just had surgery October 1 to remove bone spurs in his elbow.
Johnson isn't without a plethora of red flags. What is intriguing is that his risk/reward value will never be lower. The reason that's a good thing is because this guy has shown to be a high-end pitcher when he's healthy. And he's still only 29. But if the price isn't right, he'd be easy to pass up.
Brian is a lifelong Chicago Cubs follower. Living in Illinois his entire life has given him a chance to closely follow and report Chicago sports as a freelance writer through Yahoo Contributor Network and Yahoo Sports. He is also a senior majoring in Creative Writing.