Cubs beef up rotation by adding lefty Paul Maholm
By GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org January 10, 2012 8:56PM
8-2-08 Wrigley Field. Chicago, Illinois. Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher No.28 Paul Maholm to the plate in the 1 St Inning. Photo by Scott Stewart/Sun-Times
Updated: February 12, 2012 8:17AM
Just because the Cubs added a sixth established starter to their rotation this week doesn’t mean they’re about to trade somebody, general manager Jed Hoyer stressed Tuesday.
But that doesn’t mean the most active front office of the new year won’t, either. And persistent rumors about a Matt Garza trade only gained speed with the signing of left-hander Paul Maholm to a one-year, $4.75 million deal. Maholm’s contract includes a club option for $6.5 million (with a $500,000 buyout clause).
“I’m not going to comment on rumors, but it’s important to note that this isn’t a precursor to anything,” Hoyer said.
Hoyer also cautioned against assuming the Cubs are done dealing even as he sounded satisfied with the job the new front office has done in tackling its priority of rebuilding pitching depth.
Since Hoyer, Theo Epstein and Jason McLeod were hired less than three months ago, the Cubs have added three major-league starters, including left-hander Travis Wood and right-hander Chris Volstad — the latter coming in a trade for Carlos Zambrano.
“You never know what’s going to be available to us [before the season],” said Hoyer, who also has Ryan Dempster, Garza and Randy Wells among his current top six. “We’re happy with the depth we’ve built up over the course of the winter. But it’s a dangerous thing to say you’re ever done.”
Hoyer said the Cubs also plan to open spring training by stretching out Jeff Samardzija as a starter, which gives him a chance to compete for a starting job and develop his secondary pitches.
That only seems to make Garza — the Cubs’ top pitcher but an expensive alternative long term for a team in transition — more expendable.
That’s not the only potential drama for the staff. Fan favorite Kerry Wood could exit as a free agent if the Cubs don’t give him the “market value” contract he’s said to be seeking. Wood signed last year for a steep discount of $1.5 million.
Wood, who last season said he planned to retire if he didn’t re-sign with the Cubs, seems to be reconsidering as several potential contenders show interest in the setup man.
“We’ve been open with the media on this negotiation,’’ Hoyer said. ‘‘I think it probably is a little different than most. We continue to want Kerry back. We’ve offered him a substantial raise, and we hope it gets done.”
Maholm, meanwhile, joins the Cubs after spending the first seven years of his career (53-73, 4.36 ERA) with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Despite a 3.66 ERA last season, the ground-ball pitcher went only 6-14 — in part because of the fifth-worst run support in the National League.
Maholm, 29, was 6-9 with a 2.96 ERA in 19 starts before the All-Star break but made only seven starts (0-5, 5.75) after the break, when shoulder pain hampered him and eventually forced him to be shut down for the rest of the season in mid-August.
“It was a pulled muscle; it wasn’t anything huge,” said Maholm, who says he’s 100 percent.
‘‘Everything we did in the physical looked good,” Hoyer said. “We felt confident he’s healthy and [will be] ready to go at the start of next year.”