Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Jake Westbrook?

Jim Hendry's spending spree which was capped off by the Sunday signing of Alfonso Soriano has Cub nation salivating for the next move. While rumors circulate that the Cubs may add another position player or two, we all know that the real concern has to be starting pitching. Jim Hendry admitted it when he said this in a Muskat article on
"We will have to add some pitching, whether it's through free agency or potential trades," Hendry said. "We'll be looking at different options in role players and try to get stronger from the left side."
Barry Zito and Jason Schmidt are the big names on the free agent market. A name that keeps coming up here, here and here in rumors is Tribe hurler Jake Westbrook.

Ironically at one time, when Westbrook was in the Yankee system, he was rumored to be part of a deal that would have sent Sammy Sosa to the Bronx and a young Alfonso Soriano to the Cubs along with the prospect Westbrook and possibly others. As you know, that deal never went down. Since those rumors several managers, a couple of GM's and a team president have departed the northside. Now more than half a decade later Soriano has made his way to Clark and Addison and Westbrook could be next.

Westbrook's salary for 2007 is only $5.6 million (a team option that was part of the deal he signed before 2005). After the season Westbrook will walk. With 44 wins over the last three years, Westbrook's agent has to be watching this years free agent pitching crop with much interest.

Rumors are circling that Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro would be willing to deal Westbrook if the deal helps his sieve-like bullpen. Shapiro needs a new closer and he needs good arms to fill out the rest of their 'pen. Fausto Carmona and Adam Miller could join the join the Indians starting staff. This would make Westbrook or Cliff Lee good candidates to be dealt. All of this could play into Cruller Jim's hands. The Cub bullpen right now has a surplus of arms and with the addition of Neil Cotts they have three lefthanders. The Cubs could sweeten the deal with one of the young starters that we saw last season (excluding Rich Hill) and maybe throw in a second-tier minor league prospect.

The one thing that really stands out with Westbrook is he keeps the ball on the ground. Each of the last three years he has been in the top four for GB%. In 2006 he finished 4th in GB% (pitchers with 175+ IP) behind Derek Lowe, 2006 NL Cy Young Award winner Brandon Webb and Chien-ming Wang. Just for the sake of comparison, Jason Schmidt's GB% was 38.5% (finishing 71 of 73) and Barry Zito's was 40.8% (64 of 73).

When you look at Westbrook's salary, the groundballs at Wrigley Field, and Westbrook's age (he'll be 30 this September) he just might add up to being the Cubs smartest play to bolster their starting rotation behind Carlos Zambrano.

I saw it on the interweb
Frequent 1060west commentor Clute has a new blog called Lollygaggers.

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