Everyone has been waiting for weeks for the Cubs to trade Matt Garza and now… they still have to wait. What they don’t have to wait for is the Cubs to replace Garza in the rotation as they look to have lined up his replacement by signing free agent pitcher Paul Maholm today.
Financial terms of the deal have not been released yet, but this definitely looks like a smart move for the rebuilding Cubs. Maholm may not be anything special, but he has his uses. Not only is the 29-year old coming off a season in which he posted a 3.66 ERA and had been a reliable innings horse up until this season when he suffered a shoulder strain in August. Even with that DL trip, Maholm still managed to pitch 162.1 innings, the lowest total of his career. At a minimum, the Cubs are getting someone who can eat up some innings for them, which is important for a rebuilding team that doesn’t want to burn out younger arms.
But it isn’t just about innings, Maholm is actually a sneaky good pitcher. He doesn’t miss many bats, but he generates plenty of grounders and his FIP numbers the last four years have been rather strong, never getting any worse than 4.18, although his actual ERA has sometimes been much worse. Depending on what kind of defensive infield the Cubs end up putting behind Maholm, he should be more able to perform in line with his FIP.
Where Maholm might be of real value to the Cubs though could be on the trade market down the road. If Maholm can prove that his shoulder problems were just a one-time thing and put together a few months of quality work that is commensurate with his usual peripherals, he could make for a very nice trade deadline addition for a contending team. Or maybe that is a scenario that plays out next season, depending on just how long the contract he signed turns out to be. And it should be a relatively short-term deal as there is little incentive for the Cubs to sign Maholm to anything longer than two years given that they seem committed to rebuilding this clubs from scratch.