Do we really need to spend big (or trade a boatload of assets) for a mediocre improvement?
If we're going to add a legitimate ACE, that's one thing, but for AA to target a middle of the rotation SP this offseason, I seriously wonder if it is necessary.
We have a lot more depth in our SP options heading into 2014 than we had going into 2013. While we lack the top of the rotation type, we've got plenty of average or better Major-league starters.
We know what we're likely to get out of Dickey and Buehrle. Around 200 innings, a tick over .500 win percentage, and the ability to keep our team in games on a nightly basis. If the defense improves/stays healthier, we might see one or both of them post 15 wins this year.
Morrow and Johnson have ace upside. injuries have definitely thrown a wrench in our plans for these two, but going into last season we all figured these guys could be the type of #2 starters that could shut the opposition down on any given night. Are we certain that they can't return to form? If even one of them returned to their pre-2013 form, we're looking at a very nasty pitcher. Obviously there are no guarantees with either pitcher, but I'm willing to bet that in a full healthy season they'd perform even better than Dickey/Buehrle.
I think a $14 million dollar gamble on Johnson is justified (if the medical staff think he's healthy) because of the cost of other FAs. To spend say $75 million over 5 years on a guy like Ervin Santana seems like a horrible plan.
If our pitching depth chart looks like this now, I think there is only a need for a SP if they are a bonafide ace (Kershaw, Baumgarner, Sale, Hernandez, or Scherzer).
I'd probably target Samardzija or Lynn through trade, but they'd likely cost more than we'd like to give up.
For reference sake, let's look at the guys we've got, and a range of what they might give us in 2014. From a low-end expectation to an ideal world possibility:
Dickey (solid innings-eating #4 to a legitimate #2).. he did win the NL Cy young just 13 months ago.
Buehrle (solid #5 to a strong and consistent #3)
Morrow (major injury-risk #4 to a legitimate shutdown #2)
Happ (Swingman to a decent #5 starter)
Rogers (Swingman to a fair #4 with an innings cap)
Redmond (AAA fodder to a stopgap #5)
Romero (AAA burnout to a #2 wildcard if he gets his head on straight)
Apparently Dustin McGowan wants a chance to start again.
McGowan (Lockdown bullpen arm to a #2 starter with a major innings limit)
Hutchison (on the cust SP in AAA to a serviceable #3 young gun)
Drabek (AAA injury replacement to a solid #4 in 2014)
Stroman (Late inning BP callup to a possible #2 SP by season's end)
Nolin (Situational Lefty/swingman to a possible #4 lefty)
Sanchez (Developing prospect to a late season shutduwn starter)
Johnson might be worth resigning to add another potential #2 starter on a short term contract.
In a world based solely on potential impact arms for 2014, this would be my starting rotation:
With Happ, Rogers and Redmond ready to step in due to injury
Romero, Drabek, Stroman, Nolin, in AAA.
Given that Morrow, Hutch and McGowan will all be on inning restrictions, it'd be KEY to get some solid production out of a guy like Stroman late in the season.
All this said, I'd be thrilled if AA were able to acquire a #1 pitcher, but if the offseason goes for sh*ts, and we end up going into Spring Training with the horses we've already got in the stable, I think were already in better shape than last season.