You know what’s weird? The Cubs have been actively pursuing pitching this offseason, yet two of the top 10 remaining free agents are former Cubs pitchers. Actually, Jason Hammel and Travis Wood are among the top five unsigned players on the MLB Trade Rumors list.
Adding to the intrigue is the fact that there’s been very little to report on the pursuit of either hurler this winter. Hammel, ranked as the 15th overall free agent by MLBTR, has seen nothing materialize despite being connected to several teams. The Rangers, Orioles, and Yankees have all checked in on him, but the former just snagged Tyson Ross and the O’s re-signed Mark Trumbo. Yeah, I know he’s not a pitcher.
As for Wood, the overall number 24 FA, the market has been even less clear. It’s been presumed all along that he’d leave Chicago to get the starting opportunity the Cubs weren’t willing to offer him, though that could well be shifting. With Ross signing in Texas and Trevor Cahill getting a shot with the Padres, Wood may find an irregular spot as the Cubs’ sixth starter preferable to a more permanent role with another team.
I can’t imagine I’m the only one who’s surprised by this turn of non-events, though my imagination isn’t all that active and I’m easily surprised. Both Hammel and Wood made solid contributions over the past couple/three seasons and I just figured they’d have no trouble getting work. Then again, neither really needs to settle at this point in their respective careers.
It still seems very unlikely to me that Hammel is ever back in a Cubs uniform, given the nature of his departure and all (more on that in the “materialize” link above). Wood, though, I could maybe see signing up for a return engagement. While landing another rotation gig may be a priority, he’s fooling himself if he thinks that’s really what’s best for him in terms of value. After seeing how Wood was exposed by right-handed hitting, it’s hard to see him showing out over multiple innings every fifth day.
This next sentence was supposed to say something about how there’s still plenty of time left in the offseason, but that’s not really true any longer. With Cubs pitchers and catchers set to report on Valentine’s Day, we’re looking at just over three weeks to lock up a deal prior to Spring Training. Of course, either of these guys could easily let things play out until the right deal comes along, even if that carries them into March or beyond.
So what do you think: is one or the other of these pitchers more likely to come back to the Cubs the longer this drags out? Less likely? Either way, it’s weird to me that we’re still talking about them.