Baker is going to meet with a doctor this weekend, and until then he'll do nothing. We already knew that Baker wasn't really going to pitch until mid-April at the earliest, but having elbow problems after Tommy John is obviously disconcerting. Baseball has been getting better and better results from TJS in recent years, but the recovery rate (obviously) is not 100%. If Baker has to go under the knife again (and it's a definite possibility, but by no means guaranteed), there's a great chance Baker will receive 5.5 million dollars from the Cubs to retire a single batter in a meaningless game in March.
Nice work, if you can get it…
With Garza's indefinite absence, the rotation is shaping up to be Shark, EJax, Wood, Feldman, and Villanueva. Dale Sveum has said that Drew Carpenter is the 6th starter, but I hope not. He's been in AAA for the last 5 years and is the ethos of replacement-level starting pitching. Both Rusin and Bowden are 2 years younger (at 25) and could actually end up being passable 5th options (though it is basically splitting hairs). If you ask me, I'd got with Rusin; he's a leftie, and everyone else in the rotation except Wood is a righthander.
Ian Stewart is also on the DL again. The move actually helps his chances of making the team, because he doesn't take up a roster spot. I think we've all basically just assumed that he's never going to return at 100% for this team, and he'll be paid his $2 million or whatever and ride off into the sunset. I'm not that mad about (considering the going rate for project middle relievers is $3 million).
I didn't want this to turn into a rant, but oh well. Is there a greater example of how stupid the new IFA rules are than this? If Rivero signed 2 years ago, he'd be a nobody that got $75,000 to fill a roster somewhere. However, now there are only 3 places in which you can use financial resources to compete for "talent": free agency, the "posting" system, and IFA that don't qualify under their spending limitations. The demand for talent is still high, but the supply of free market talent is low. Thus, the prices for that talent rises, to the point that we paid Armando Rivero $3.1 million to relieve at AA this year. When people are talking about about your multi-million acquisitions with the phrases "maybe a middle reliever" and "doesn't have a plus secondary pitch", it's time to wonder if the system is working as intended.
As for the MLB club, I've talked about the rotation. In the bullpen, I think it's pretty clear:
Rondon is the Rule V mopup guy. He's apparently been adequate.
Takahashi has a great shot at the lefty out of the bullpen. He's not a traditional LOOGY, but he's a fine bullpen janitor (cleans up the shit).
Camp is a fine 7th inning guy, and he'll probably be back-to-back Cubs' MVP.
Russell is the setup man who was nails last year. I think another year in the pen will do him wonders, but you've got to be slightly concerned about getting bit by the variance bug. His HR/9 rate fell by a whole bomb per 9 last year (1.60 to 0.65), and it'll be interesting to see if that trend continues. Until Marmol is traded, he's probably sharing the set-up duties with Fujikawa.
Fujikawa will probably close after Marmol is traded. No one has any idea if he's any good.
Marmol will close until he's traded.
The last spot is interesting. If the Cubs are serious about stretching Bowden out, he obviously will start the season in Iowa. If not, he'd be a serviceable dude in the 'pen. Without him (and I'm assuming Carpenter is starting in AAA also, along with Cabrera) the last spot is probably down to Cory Wade and Zach Putnam (guys like Zych and Chapman have an outside shot). If it were up to me, I'd give Wade the spot. He's shown the ability to be an effective reliever at the MLB level before, so you might be able to spin him for a lottery ticket at the deadline. In the end, though, I'm betting the Cubs put Bowden in that spot. He's have to clear irrevocable waivers if he doesn't make the team, and even then he'd likely refuse the assignment. He can make a team somewhere. He gets a spot on the 40-man just as soon as Stewart inevitably goes on the 60-day.