Along with the signings of Scott Baker, Scott Feldman, and Edwin Jackson, the Cubs’ acquisition of Carlos Villanueva seems to signify a team-wide plot to get all of the pitchers there are. Villanueva joins the Cubs on a two-year deal that will pay him $10 million and will mean he no longer spends most of his time in Canada. That could be good or bad; you’re all doubtlessly aware by now of how much we love Canada.
Villanueva will presumably be a starter, but he has yet to tally more than 125 1/3 innings in a single season. For what it’s worth, the 29-year-old accomplished that feat in 2012, and he did so while striking out 8.76 per nine, a very solid number. The improved strikeout rate could be a sign of things to come, and perhaps it’s one reason the Cubs were attracted to the otherwise unremarkable Villanueva. All that progress last season came with a price, however, as somehow Villanueva gave up a ridiculous 23 home runs in his limited work; somehow he was more hittable while being…less hittable.
It’s pretty easy to see how Villanueva could earn this deal. All he’ll need to do is stay healthy, take his turn, and keep making progress to have the best seasons of his career so far. The Cubs can afford to take short-term risks, and this is another one that could pay dividends in the long run. Even if Villanueva isn’t in the long-term plans of the organization, Hoyer and Epstein could easily find a taker come July. Everyone wants as many arms as they can get their hands on, and it’s wise of the Cubs to position themselves with bargaining chips that could later be cashed in for increased farm system depth. Then again, guys like Villanueva and Baker could work out supremely and wind up in Chicago for a while. Either way, this is another low-risk, high-reward move from a team getting better at making these sorts of decisions.