For the last two years the Chicago Cubs have had one of the best starting rotations in all of baseball. But when they have had to call on someone from the minor leagues to make a spot start or join the rotation for an extended time, there has been a considerable drop off in production from those players. Organizational pitching depth has been something President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein has been striving for since he took over in Chicago, and it has been arguably the only thing he has not done well during his time with the Cubs.

While building that depth of quality pitching has not gone as planned through the draft, the team could explore giving minor league deals to established veterans with something to prove. Going in that direction would be a less expensive option than pooling all of their money toward one more big name starting pitcher, and if any of them need to come up in a pinch they would provide major league caliber pitching. Coincidentally, all of the guys I selected are former Cubs.

Travis Wood

Wood was a fan favorite in Chicago not too long ago, having spent the 2012-16 seasons on the north side. His first three seasons were spent as a member of the starting rotation, earning an All-Star selection in 2013 when he posted a 3.11 ERA across over 200 innings. What really endeared him to fans was his ability to hit the long ball, blasting out 7 regular season home runs and adding a solo shot in the 2016 NLDS against the San Francisco Giants. In 2015 he was moved to the bullpen, and that was where he found his footing. His career stats out of the bullpen include a 3.48 ERA, a 1.27 WHIP, and a 8.6 K/9 rate, and the difference in his starting/relieving splits is similar to what Mike Montgomery has posted in his career.

After a gruesome 2017 season that saw Wood post a combined 6.80 ERA, he may be a perfect candidate for a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training. Just two years ago he put up a 2.95 ERA in 77 appearances, and maybe coming back to a familiar organization with some new voices in the pitching department is what he needs to get back on track. Wood will be just 31-years old this year, so if he can regain that confidence he once had on the mound then he could factor in to the Cubs’ pitching plans beyond just 2018.

Matt Garza

Garza is more remembered for being the guy they gave up Chris Archer for. But what fans tend to forget is that leading up to that trade, he was pitching like an ace. In his last six starts with the Cubs, Garza averaged over seven innings pitched per game with 1.24 ERA, .210 batting average against, and 3.8 K/BB ratio. Every time he stepped on the mound at that time, it almost felt like an automatic win.

He did not pitch anywhere close to that level over the last three years with the Milwaukee Brewers – and he has had to deal with injuries as well – but his career totals still look pretty good. Over his 12-year major league career he owns a 4.09 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 rate, and a 7.3 K/9 rate across over 1,700 innings of work. The best years of his career came with the Cubs, and it might be worth giving him a minor league flier to see if he can recapture some north side magic.

Trevor Cahill

Cahill was a dominant starter for Oakland in 2010, and pitched well in the rotation with the San Diego Padres just last year when he owned a 3.69 ERA over 11 starts. Like the other guys I have talked about, Cahill did his best pitching in a Cubs uniform, having a 2.61 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 6.2 H/9 rate, and a 9.6 K/9 rate during his time with Chicago. Almost all of that work for the Cubs came out of the bullpen, but we do know that he still has the ability to start and contribute to a starting rotation.

While he didn’t struggle to the extent that Travis Wood did last year, there has been hardly any mention of him this off-season. There was mention of the Giants and some other teams being interested in him back in mid-December, but a month has passed and he is still out on the market. That lack of serious interest from other clubs may be enough for him to take a minor league deal, and since he will be just 30-years old this season he could potentially earn a bigger role in future years as well.

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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