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Cubs will have to add two or three starters just to field competitive team in 2013

Detroit Tigers pitcher Anibal Sanchez pitches baseball game against MinnesotTwins Sunday Sept. 30 2012 Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Detroit Tigers pitcher Anibal Sanchez pitches in a baseball game against the Minnesota Twins Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012 in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

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The Cubs say they expect to pursue free-agent starting pitching this winter, but how deep will they venture to build a strong staff (that already includes Jeff Samardzija and Matt Garza)? An early list of
possible free agents:

Age* 2012 ’12 salary

RHP Shaun Marcum, Brewers 31 7-4, 3.70 ERA $7.73M

RHP Anibal Sanchez, Tigers 29 9-13, 3.86 ERA $8M

RHP Edwin Jackson, Nationals 29 10-11, 4.03 ERA $11M

RHP Carlos Villanueva, Blue Jays 29 7-7, 4.16 ERA $2.28M

RHP Brandon McCarthy, A’s 29 8-6, 3.24 ERA $4.28M

RHP Jeremy Guthrie, Royals 33 8-12, 4.76 ERA $8.2M

RHP Zack Greinke, Angels 29 15-5, 3.48 ERA $13.5M

RHP Kyle Lohse, Cardinals 34 16-3, 2.86 ERA $11.875M

RHP Ryan Dempster, Rangers 35 12-8, 3.38 ERA $14M

RHP Brett Myers, White Sox 32 3-8, 3.31 ERA $11M**

RHP Gavin Floyd, White Sox 30 12-11, 4.29 ERA $7M**

RHP Ervin Santana, Angels 30 9-13, 5.16 ERA $11.2M**

RHP Dan Haren, Angels 32 12-13, 4.33 ERA $12.75M**

RHP Jake Peavy, White Sox 31 11-12, 3.37 ERA $17M**

* — On Opening Day. **High-priced team options for 2013 (Myers, $10M; Floyd, $9.5M; Santana, $13M; Haren, $13.5M; Peavy, $22M).

Note: Myers made 70 appearances, all in relief, this season but made 33 starts in 2011 and is expected to seek a starting opportunity.

Updated: November 8, 2012 12:10PM

One season and 101 losses after
Theo Epstein took over as the Cubs’ president, there remains no more certain a timetable for when this overmatched, rebuilding team will be able to contend.

But if the Cubs plan to recover enough to take on the look of a major-league team again by next season — and if the front-office plans to give the established holdovers and the field staff a chance to be competitive — it means diving into a part of offseason business Epstein ideally would like to skip.

Merely to put a representative team on the field, the Cubs will have to acquire at least two starting pitchers and probably three from outside the organization. That means working through a free-agent market slim on All-Star talent but with enough middle-rotation veterans to offer the Cubs a chance to use their significant payroll flexibility to put together a competitive staff.

The issue is less whether they will be able to do it than whether they will be willing to do it.

‘‘There are going to be a lot of teams looking at a pretty limited field,’’ Epstein said. ‘‘I don’t think there’s going to be great value to be had out there. But I think there’s some quality, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see us sign a free agent or two for our rotation.’’

Epstein said this during a nearly 40-minute media conference in which he also stressed ‘‘patience’’ for the fans, offered no guesses on a timeline for being competitive again and continued to express a long-held disdain for using free agency at all.

That said, ‘‘If there’s the right player at the right contract, even at a significant length, if we believe in that player and we believe it’s a good investment, we won’t shy away from it,’’ he said.

This winter might be a good test of that. Last offseason, facing steep pitching deficits on the roster, the Cubs signed left-hander Paul
Maholm to a modest, short-term deal and added left-hander Travis Wood in a baseball-value trade and right-hander Chris Volstad in a Carlos Zambrano-dump trade.

With right-hander Matt Garza expected back healthy and right-hander Jeff Samardzija having established himself as a potential front-line starter, getting two
middle-rotation pitchers might put the Cubs in position to at least have a fighting chance at a decent start.

And several players who figure to be on the 2013 roster have pointed to the midseason roster tear-down, during which Maholm was ‘‘flipped’’ for prospects, as acute motivation for a fast start in April and May.

Two former Cy Young Award winners, right-handers Jake Peavy and Zack Greinke, are among the potential free agents, but neither is on the Cubs’ radar, nor should they be. Peavy has a track record of injuries and figures to command an overvalued price/length of contract coming off his 219-
inning season with the White Sox. And Greinke not only is a strong candidate to re-sign with the Los Angeles Angels, but the Cubs don’t consider a pitcher with a history of social-anxiety issues a good fit for the Chicago market.

More along the Cubs’ lines is right-hander Shaun Marcum, a
solid middle-rotation pitcher who has a relationship with pitching coach Chris Bosio and might come at a relative bargain after some
injury issues in 2012.

Right-hander Anibal Sanchez, a former fast-rising prospect the Miami Marlins traded to the
Detroit Tigers this season, is another possible fit, along with the Washington Nationals’ Edwin Jackson, a pitcher with high-end ability who might be had for a shorter-term deal, depending on how the market develops.

Landing two pitchers of that caliber might help nurture at least some of the patience Epstein keeps saying fans need to have.

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