If at first your trade Dan Haren falls through, then you try to sign Anibal Sanchez. When that plan gets FUBAR, well, you hold out hope for Edwin Jackson and sign Carlos Villanueva as a backup plan. So it goes for the Chicago Cubs.
The Cubs are set to sign the free agent right-hander to a deal, Jon Heyman reports. Villanueva, who started 16 games with the Toronto Blue Jays last season, was seeking a situation where he could potentially grab a full-time spot in a rotation. The Cubs may be able to accommodate him. Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija, and Travis Wood represent the Cubs’ returning starters, while both Scott Baker and Scott Feldman will look to grab a spot in the rotation, too. Villanueva could begin the season in the rotation while Baker rehabs from Tommy John surgery. After that, his fate may depend on how well he, Feldman and Wood pitch.
Villanueva made it known last season that he felt he was best suited as a starter. Alex Anthopoulos publicly disagreed, expressing his concern for the 29-year old’s ability to handle a starter’s workload over a full season. It was the beginning of a divorce. One that ended with the Blue Jays building the American League’s scariest on-paper rotation and Villanueva heading for the
junior varsity league National League Central in attempt to prove his worth.
Villanueva finished 2012 with a 4.16 ERA in 16 starts and 22 relief appearancess. He struck out 122 batters in 125.1 innings of work and issued 46 walks. He’ll certainly receive some starts with the Cubs, but it’s possible that he resumes his role as a sixth starter/long reliever if the Cubs add another arm.