Position analysis: Pitching will be a priority

Position analysis: Pitching will be a priority
Cubs starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija. (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Tribune Photo)

A pitching staff that included

Ryan Dempster


Paul Maholm


Matt Garza


Jeff Samardzija


Carlos Marmol

went belly up in 2012, despite prolonged stretches of dominance from those four starters and the closer.



finished 24th among all major league teams with a 4.51 earned-run average, with the starters ranking 23rd (4.52 ERA) and the relievers finishing at 27th (4.49). The Cubs also issued the second most walks (573) in baseball, while recording the fourth fewest strikeouts (1,128).

It was an unmitigated disaster, featuring a slew of pitchers who obviously should not have been pitching in the major leagues.

Suffice to say pitching will be a priority this offseason, and probably the next two as well.

Pitching coach Chris Bosio probably could go out on the street and find someone who threw with more conviction that

Chris Volstad

, more confidence than

Travis Wood

or more velocity than Brooks Raley. But those were the cards he was dealt, and next year doesn't look to be that much different unless the Cubs spend some money.

Samardzija will return to head the staff after being shut down in mid-September, while Garza may return if the Cubs can't find a suitable buyer. Any thoughts of Garza getting an extension probably were doused by his elbow injury, and the real question is whether to showcase him for a deal in

spring training

or wait until the trading deadline in July.

Volstad wasn't expected to be a top-line starter, but neither was he expected to post a 6.31 ERA in 26 starts, going 3-12 in his Cubs' debut. Like the long-forgotten

Randy Wells

, he figures to be non-tendered.

Wood's EREA was a more respectable 4.27, which figures to earn him a return to the rotation, though he went 2-10 with a 5.07 ERA in the second half. Raley, Chris Rusin, Justin Germano and

Jason Berken

combined to go 5-18, and none is expected to get anything more than a courtesy invite to spring training, if that.

Free agent starters

Shaun Marcum


Anibal Sanchez

will be available, along with

Jake Peavy

if the White Sox decline his option, as expected. Whether the Cubs will be able to fill the rotation with that kind of talent is a question only club President

Theo Epstein


As for the bullpen, only Marmol,

James Russell


Shawn Camp

are likely to be back, assuming the Cubs don't trade Marmol, who wants to return.

Jaye Chapman

, acquired in the Paul Maholm deal, showed enough promise in a September call-up -- limiting opposing hitters to a .200 average in 14 games -- that he probably will get a shot at making the roster.

Michael Bowden

also showed vast improvement after returning from Triple-A Iowa in August, posting a 1.33 ERA in 27 innings. He deserve a chance in spring as well.

But that's about it.

Manny Corpas had a 5.01 ERA.

Lendy Castillo

was a Rule 5 pick who didn't pan out, and barely pitched for that matter.

Alberto Cabrera


Rafael Dolis

both have live arms, but neither has proven themselves capable of throwing strikes  consistently. Dolis was even handed the closer's role after Marmol's early-season struggles, a decision that seemed crazy at the time, and even crazier in hindsight.

Jeff Beliveau

looked good in spurts, but opposing hitters finished with a .956 OPS against him.

General manager

Jed Hoyer

said the Cubs would seek pitching aggressively this offseason, but whether they will spend the necessary money to alter the direction of the staff is unknown.

Bosio will have his hands full again, trying to keep from going insane. Good luck with that.

Twitter @PWSullivan