This morning, two tweets indicated that Brandon Webb feels he can pitch in 2011, and that the Cubs may be the team he'll choose to pitch for:
#cubs, #nats, #rangers in mix for brandon webb, who's already throwing and preparing like usual for spring. #bargainace?
After the jump, my thoughts on whether the Cubs should take this plunge. Since this isn't just speculation, but a player the Cubs are actually in the market for, let's look at this with the idea that he could actually be part of the major league rotation in 2011.
Brandon Webb hasn't pitched in the major leagues since Opening Day 2009; he's been out since then with a pretty serious shoulder injury which, many think, may prevent him from ever pitching in the major leagues again. According to this MLBTR post from last month, Webb's agent said that Webb expects to make 30+ starts for a major league team in 2011 and is progressing well in his recovery.
Of course, that could very well just be an agent blowing smoke trying to increase his client's market value.
There is a recent comp for someone doing what Webb is trying to do -- Ben Sheets, who signed with the Athletics last year after missing a year. There are a couple of differences -- first, Webb was a better pitcher than Sheets before the injury; Webb's been out two years, not one; and Sheets had injury problems even before missing the 2009 season, while Webb hadn't missed a start since joining the Diamondbacks' rotation in 2003, until the injury forced him off the field in 2009.
I think the Cubs should go for it. Any deal they'd sign would have to have a low base salary plus easily makeable incentives which would protect the Cubs from paying guaranteed money if Webb is still hurt, but pay Webb a market-rate salary if he can make those 30 starts. The Sheets caveat may apply -- Sheets started off the season fairly well, but then got hurt again and was shut down after July 19. On the other hand, that could just be Ben Sheets, who was always hurt even when he was doing well with the Brewers.