Ervin Santana, Future Cub?

Harry How

The Cubs need starting pitching. Two members of the Angels are likely about to become available. The Cubs should try to sign one of them.

This week, major-league teams have to decide whether to pick up contract options on players before the free-agent season opens this weekend.

Two of those players are right-handed starters for the Los Angeles Angels, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana.

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports on the Angels' choices:

The Los Angeles Angels have at least explored the possibility of trading starting pitchers Dan Haren and Ervin Santana before their options come due in a couple of days, executives with other teams said.

One competing executive suggested he believed it might be hard to trade either pitcher based on their sub-par seasons. There is also an expectation the Angels won't exercise the pitchers' options, which would make them free agents.

"We're exploring a variety of different opportunities," Angels GM Jerry Dipoto said.

So, what does this have to do with the Cubs? Well, the Cubs are clearly in the market for starting pitchers, unless you think they're going to foist Justin Germano and Jason Berken on us for a full season (please, no. Just no). Anyway, it doesn't seem likely that the Cubs would want to take on Haren's contract (which calls for $15.5 million in 2013) or Santana's $13 million option, given that both of them had bad years in 2012. Alden Gonzalez, the Angels' beat writer, expects the Angels to decline those options.

Haren is two years older than Santana, though he has had quite a bit more success in his career (five straight good years before his bad 2012). Santana threw a no-hitter in 2011, but wound up leading the American League in home runs allowed in 2012.

It doesn't seem logical for the Cubs to trade for either of these pitchers at their current 2013 contract price; either would likely become the second-highest-paid Cub, behind Alfonso Soriano, if they did that. More logical would be to allow the Angels to buy them out and then try to sign one of them as a free agent -- thus avoiding having to send the Angels a prospect in a trade.

For me, Santana is the better risk. Sure, Haren has been better over his career, but he's also older. Santana is a guy you could sign to a two-year deal -- presumably at a lower price than his option cost -- and if the Cubs are still floundering in mid-2014, you could flip him for prospects. If he can return to his 2010-11 form, you could extend him and he's still not that old when the (presumed) 2015 contention comes.

Have at it.

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