Showing posts with label Jake Arrieta. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jake Arrieta. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Cubs rough up Indians starter Josh Tomlin, force Game 7 in World Series

Addison Russell
Well, Game 6 of the World Series sure was boring, wasn't it? The Cubs trounced the Cleveland Indians, 9-3, on Tuesday to even the series at 3.

This one was lopsided from the outset. So lopsided that I don't have anything nuanced to say about it. (Not that I ever do.) It was a strong performance by the Cubs, and a poor performance by the Indians. How's that for analysis?

Game 7 is Wednesday night in Cleveland.

You could tell that Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin just did not have it pitching on short rest from the very start of this game. Sure, he retired the first two hitters, but he hung a sloppy 0-2 curve to Kris Bryant, who deposited it in the left-field seats for a 1-0 Chicago lead.

Tomlin then hung a curve to Anthony Rizzo and left a changeup high in the zone to Ben Zobrist. Those two at-bats resulted in singles for the Cubs, and placed runners on first and third. The Indians' defense then failed Tomlin as center fielder Tyler Naquin and right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall stood and looked at each other as a lazy fly off the bat of Addison Russell fell in for a "two-run double."

Just like that, it was 3-0 Cubs. The game was essentially over there, but for good measure, the Cubs blew it open with four runs in the third inning

A walk and two singles to load the bases ended Tomlin's night, and Russell cleared 'em off with a grand slam off Cleveland reliever Dan Otero. 7-0. No drama on this night. Jake Arrieta worked 5.2 innings of two-run ball to get the win.

I did think it was interesting that Cubs manager Joe Maddon used Aroldis Chapman in the seventh inning. The Chicago closer entered with two on and two out in a 7-2 game, and finished that inning by inducing a groundout by Francisco Lindor.

Chapman also pitched a scoreless eighth. After the Cubs got two in the ninth on a Rizzo home run, Chapman returned to the mound in the bottom of the ninth and walked the leadoff man before departing. He threw 20 pitches and was charged with Cleveland's third and final run, which came across after he left the game in the ninth.

I'm certain Chapman will be available for Game 7. It's all hands on deck in these situations. But it's worth noting that Chapman threw 42 pitches in an eight-out save in Game 5, plus the 20 pitches in Game 6. That's a greater workload for him than usual. Will it matter? We'll see.

You can't really blame Maddon, because you can't win Game 7 if you don't get to Game 7, and I've never faulted a manager for going to his best reliever in a must-win situation. I do think there is some chance fatigue will catch up to Chapman, if he pitches Wednesday -- and I assume he will.

Momentum is on the side of the Cubs at this point. They've won the past two games. This victory in Game 6 was an overwhelming one. The Indians will now be forced to go to their ace, Corey Kluber, on short rest for Game 7. Kluber won Games 1 and 4 for Cleveland in this series, and like Chapman, we also have to wonder how much he has left in the tank. His mound opponent will be Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks.

Two things that could help the Indians: 1) They are playing at home. Cheering fans don't win games, but all things being equal, you'd rather be at home than on the road in Game 7. And 2) Cleveland's top three relievers -- Andrew Miller, Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw -- did not appear in Game 6. They will be rested and ready to go. Indians manager Terry Francona could turn the game over to them as early as the fifth inning, if necessary.

So far this series has featured two epic games -- Games 3 and 5. Each team won one. The other four games have been lopsided, with each club taking two one-sided victories. Here's to hoping Game 7 is a close one, and not another snoozer.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Cubs don't look as if they are going to choke

Kyle Schwarber
One of the main questions I had about the Cubs coming into the playoffs was whether they'd be able to deal with adversity.

Most of their fans would probably never admit to this, but the Cubs faced no adversity whatsoever all season. They played a soft schedule -- 106 of their 162 games were against losing teams -- and dominated a weak NL Central. St. Louis had a down season by its standards. Pittsburgh's pitching staff fell apart. Milwaukee and Cincinnati weren't even trying to win.

The Cubs won their division by 17.5 games, and it was every bit the cakewalk that figure represents. So, I wondered how the Cubs would respond when they were placed in a situation where they had to win a game, because there wasn't a single time during the whole regular season when they were seriously challenged.

So far in these playoffs, the Cubs have been seriously challenged twice. Give them credit, because they've responded both times. Once, on the road in Game 4 of the NLCS, where they were trailing 2 games to 1 against the Los Angeles Dodgers after having been shut out in Games 2 and 3. They trounced the Dodgers, 10-2, in that game and went on to win the next two to claim the NL pennant.

The other challenge was Wednesday night. After the Cubs were clobbered, 6-0, in Game 1 of the World Series by the Cleveland Indians, how would they respond in Game 2? Quite well, as a matter of fact, as they collected a decisive 5-1 victory to even the series.

Previous Cubs teams have always choked when they get in these tight situations where they need to win in the playoffs, but this group shows no sign of that. They got a good performance from Jake Arrieta, who is basically a five- or six-inning pitcher these days, but he gave the Cubs an effective 5.2 innings Wednesday. He didn't allow a hit until the sixth inning, when the Indians scored a run off him and manager Joe Maddon went to the bullpen.

Arrieta doesn't have the same command of the strike zone he had during his 2015 Cy Young campaign. His walk rate has nearly doubled. His ERA and home run rates are up, his strikeout rate is down. He needs more pitches to get through innings, and he can't get as deep into games as he might like, but he doesn't give up a lot of hits -- only 6.3 per 9 IP this season -- and that's been his saving grace.

Wednesday night, Mike Montgomery and Aroldis Chapman provided 3.1 innings of scoreless relief, and that made a winner out of Arrieta, whose performance was far superior to that of Cleveland's Trevor Bauer.

Bauer needed 87 pitches to record only 11 outs. The Cubs scored two runs on six hits against him in 3.2 innings. The North Siders then added on with three in the fifth off Cleveland relievers Zach McAllister and Bryan Shaw, although the run charged to Shaw was unearned.

Kyle Schwarber, just back from a major knee injury, is becoming the story of the series for the Cubs. He went 2 for 4 with a pair of RBI singles in Wednesday's win. He became the first non-pitcher in the history of baseball to record a hit in the World Series after not getting a hit in the regular season. He has shown that he is healthy enough to be an effective DH in an American League park. That can only help the Cubs, if the series heads back to Cleveland for Games 6 and 7.

Big question for Maddon for Games 3, 4 and 5 at Wrigley Field: Can he put Schwarber in left field?

There's no getting around the fact that Schwarber was a butcher in the outfield even before he got hurt. Putting him out there would significantly weaken the Cubs defensively, but there's also no getting around the fact that he's a difference maker with a bat in his hands.

Schwarber is the kind of player who can hit a three-run homer off a good pitcher and win a ballgame for his team. He's also the kind of player who can misplay a routine fly ball, cost his team runs and lose a ballgame. 

Will Maddon choose to use his best offensive lineup? Or will he opt to put the best defense on the field?

Personally, I subscribe to the philosophy of putting the best defense out there. Of course, I'm not the one being paid millions to make these decisions, so what do I know?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Miguel Gonzalez outpitches Jake Arrieta in crosstown series opener

Jake Arrieta -- not sharp lately
Based on pitching matchups, just about everyone was expecting the Cubs to prevail in Monday's opener of the 2016 crosstown series.

The North Siders had their ace, defending NL Cy Young award winner Jake Arrieta, on the mound, while the White Sox were countering with their No. 5 starter, Miguel Gonzalez.

However, games are not played on paper -- and surprise, surprise -- Gonzalez outpitched Arrieta in a 5-4 Sox victory:

Gonzalez: 6.2 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BBs, 8 Ks, 1 HR
Arrieta: 6 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BBs, 6 Ks, 1 HR

Neither man figured in the decision, but taking a longer view, maybe we should have known this was not a mismatch.

Arrieta has not been pitching well. The Cubs have lost seven of the last 10 games he has started, including the last four. Arrieta has allowed 20 earned runs in 29.1 innings pitched over his last five outings, only one of which has been a quality start. That will pencil out to a 6.14 ERA.

In contrast, Gonzalez has churned out five consecutive quality starts for the Sox. He has allowed 11 earned runs over 32.2 innings during that span, good for a rock-solid 3.03 ERA.

The Sox right-hander is only 1-2 during that stretch, but it's through no fault of his own. He should have gotten the win Monday night, as he walked off the mound with a two outs in the seventh inning and a 4-2 lead.

But as we discussed in yesterday's blog entry, the Sox are woefully thin in the bullpen right now. Jacob Turner had a short start Friday against the Detroit Tigers. And Chris Sale did not make his start Saturday after the whole jersey-slashing incident, so the Sox bullpen has had to cover an absurd amount of innings over the past few days.

Both closer David Robertson and top set-up reliever Nate Jones were unavailable Monday, leaving Matt Albers and Dan Jennings to try to protect the 4-2 lead in the ninth. They could not. The Cubs tied it, although we can credit Jennings for recording a key strikeout of Jason Heyward with two on and two out to preserve the 4-4 tie.

The Sox then recorded their third consecutive walk-off victory. J.B. Shuck singled to lead off the bottom of the ninth against newly acquired Cubs left-hander Mike Montgomery. Dioner Navarro advanced the runner to second with a sacrifice bunt, and Tyler Saladino delivered a game-winning base hit to center field.

In case you were wondering, this is the first time the Sox have had three straight walk-off winners since Aug. 4-6, 1962.

The Sox will send James Shields to the mound in the second game of the series Tuesday. He'll be opposed by Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks.

Technically, I guess Hendricks is the fifth starter for the Cubs, but much like Gonzalez, he's been pitching better than that moniker would suggest.

Hendricks hasn't given up an earned run since June 29, and has logged a 0.72 ERA over his last seven appearances (six starts).

Maybe as Sox fans, we should be more worried about Hendricks and less worried about Arrieta, media hype aside.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Jake Peavy's struggles continue in Boston

The White Sox, Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers made a major trade on July 30 of last year: Pitcher Jake Peavy went from Chicago to Boston; shortstop Jose Iglesias went from Boston to Detroit; and outfielder Avisail Garcia went from Detroit to Chicago.

It's been mentioned more than once that Peavy is the only one of the three major players in that deal to be healthy this season. Iglesias has missed the entire year with stress fractures in both of his legs, while Garcia suffered a torn labrum in his left shoulder the second week of the season and is done for the year. Meanwhile, Peavy, who has spent time on the disabled list in five of the past six seasons, has made all 17 of his starts for Boston.

That said, it hasn't been a good year for the former NL Cy Young award winner. Peavy is just 1-7 with a 4.82 ERA in those 17 starts. He is winless in his last 12 starts after losing, 2-0, to the Cubs on Monday night. Peavy actually pitched well in his latest outing, allowing just a two-run homer to Chicago outfielder Nate Schierholtz over six innings. He was simply outpitched by Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta, who no-hit the Red Sox for the first 7.2 innings.

Respectable outing against the Cubs aside, the long-term trend for Peavy is not good. His 4.82 ERA would be the second-worst mark he has had in his career. His only worse year (4.92 in 2011) was his first year back from major surgery with the White Sox.

Peavy's WHIP (1.443), FIP (4.86) and strikeout rate (7.0 for 9 IP) all represent career worsts. He will be a free agent at the end of the season, and there are rumors he'll be on the move again at this year's trading deadline. The emergence of Rubby De La Rosa might put Peavy's rotation spot in Boston in jeopardy, if the Red Sox can manage to keep Clay Buchholz healthy.

There's no doubt White Sox fans are filled with despair when they see the likes of Hector Noesi and Scott Carroll making starts every fifth day, but know this: The Sox traded Peavy at the right time. If he were still in Chicago, he probably wouldn't be helping matters much.

It stinks that Garcia is down for the year, but he's only 23 and will likely bounce back from the injury. At this point in time, any team would rather have Garcia than Peavy. Even if the Red Sox are shopping Peavy this July, I'm not convinced any contending team will be eager to acquire him.

Even if Garcia struggles coming back from his injury, Chicago still might get something good from that trade. The South Siders got pitcher Francellis Montas from Boston in that three-team deal. Montas was recently selected to pitch in the MLB Futures Game, although he is now sidelined with a minor knee injury and will not be able to perform.

Peavy seems to be on the downside of his career. He may not be injured now, but he's pitching like a guy with a lot of wear and tear. He's not missed in Chicago. If you're a Sox fan, the players Chicago received in that deal are more likely to contribute to a contending team in the future than Peavy.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Paul Konerko gets a parting gift, then gives a parting shot

We don't often say nice things about North Siders on this blog, but give the Cubs credit for a classy gesture before Tuesday night's crosstown game at Wrigley Field.

White Sox captain Paul Konerko, playing his last game on the North Side, was presented with a green No. 14 placard from the Wrigley Field scoreboard by Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija. Fans from both teams applauded, and it was nice moment recognizing Konerko's long and successful career with the Sox.

I'll bet the Cubs are glad Konerko is finally retiring at the end of the season. The veteran first baseman has tormented the Cubs with big hit after big hit for years. In 75 career games against the Cubs, Konerko has posted a .300/.361/.592 slash line with 20 home runs and 59 RBIs. That's a pretty good track record.

On Wednesday night, the crosstown series shifted to U.S. Cellular Field, and Konerko received what will probably be his last starting nod in a game against the Cubs. He responded with two doubles, including perhaps the biggest hit of the night in the White Sox's 8-3 victory.

With the Sox leading 4-3 in the fifth inning, Konerko stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and ripped a three-run double into the left-field corner off Cubs starter Travis Wood. Later in the inning, Konerko scored on an RBI single by Marcus Semien to cap a four-run rally, and the Sox coasted from there to their fourth straight win overall and third consecutive win over the Cubs.

For what it's worth, the Sox have clinched the 2014 Crosstown Cup with this victory. The fourth and final game of the series will be Thursday night at the Cell. The Cubs will be starting a right-handed pitcher, Jake Arrieta, so that means Konerko probably will not be in the starting lineup.

No matter. He delivered his parting shot to the Sox's crosstown rival with that laser-beam double on Wednesday night. It was a fitting end to a career spent beating up on Cubs pitching.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Cubs did well at bottom of pitching market

It's easy to roll your eyes and think of Edwin Jackson when talking about the Cubs' big free agent pitching additions last year. Kyuji Fujikawa's contract might not inspire the same belly laughs as Jackson's pact, but it probably gets a guffaw.

Despite those big misses higher up on the free agent food chain, the Cubs actually did pretty well in cobbling together reclamation projects.

Scott Feldman was the obvious winner in the retread lottery. For a modest one-year, $6 million deal after an injury-stunted year in 2012, the Cubs got 91 good innings (3.46 ERA) before spinning him for Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop.

Strop showed a marked improvement in his command once arriving at Wrigley Field, and might be a solid addition to the Cubs' bullpen. Arrieta posted only a superficially good ERA (3.66), but at least gives the team a low-cost option for the back end of the rotation, or maybe another bullpen piece if shift to relieving can help him harness his control problems and home run tendencies.

The other retreads the Cubs tried out didn't pan out nearly as well. Scott Baker (1 year, $5 million), who had done plenty of good work with the Twins, never got healthy enough to contribute. Carlos Villanueva (2 years, $10 million) did what he's always done, which is pitch well enough as a low-leverage reliever, not so well as a starter. Dontrelle Willis was sent packing after spring training.

If you think one out of four on those kind of projects is a bad rate of return, you're wrong. Especially for a team like the Cubs, which didn't block any real prospects from their rotation by doling out innings, or waste any staggering amount of money.

(To help put the money in perspective, the money givein to Feldman, Baker, Villanueva and Willis was less than what the $16.8 million paid to Carlos Marmol the last two seasons.)

It's all worth considering as the Cubs haven't been linked in rumors to many big free agents this winter, but have been linked to a few names like free agent Joba Chamberlain, and trade targets like Nationals pitchers Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard.

Once the dust settles, with the Cubs still looking to fill out a rotation and closer spot, there will probably be other names. And why not? For a team with job openings that doesn't want to commit another colossal contract blunder, taking a chance on a player that's fallen on hard times can be a cost-effective way to build value for an organization that sorely needs to do just that.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Should the Cubs part with Samardzija?

Maybe the most interesting choice the Cubs face this offseason is what to do with right-hander Jeff Samardzija.

It will be interesting not just because of what Samardzija is -- not really a No. 1 starter, though maybe the best pitcher the Cubs have -- but the choice will signify the team's intent over the course of the next couple years.

Last year the Cubs reached for Edwin Jackson to plug a hole in the rotation, figuring someone had to pitch, so why not Jackson? The free agent had some upside, and teamed with Matt Garza, Samardzija, Travis Wood and a hopefully healthy Scott Feldman, if enough things broke right among the position players on the roster, you could squint at this team and see a contender. Or at least a team that could look competitive in a possibly weak NL Central.

Obviously, not much of that happened as the division was strong, high hopes for guys like shortstop Starlin Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo sank, and Jackson revealed himself to be the innings eater he is. Nothing more and nothing less.

Samardzija himself took a step back, at least as far as results go with his ERA climbing from 3.81 to 4.34, though advanced stats like fielding-independent pitching indicate his results weren't that much of a drop-off from 2012.

The Cubs should probably expect Samardzija to be what he's been over the last two seasons, which is a right-hander with a big fastball and a lot of strikeouts who is still pretty hittable, maybe walks a few too many guys, but isn't exceptionally homer-happy.

Maybe most people look at that and think Samardzija is a decent No. 3 starter, a pretty good No. 4 or a great No. 5. Maybe some teams look at the increasing ground ball-to-fly ball ratio (0.71 in 2011, 0.81 in 2012 and 0.97 last year) and think he just needs a better defense behind him to close the gap between his actually ERA and his FIP (3.45 last year). Some of those teams probably also look at the big strikeout rate (9.0 per 9 IP), consider the slow start to his baseball career while he played football at Notre Dame, and think he's still got the tools to blossom into a real No. 1 starter as he approaches his 30th birthday.

I don't buy that most optimistic version of Samardzija's future, because you really have to be sold on arguments that can't be made with numbers alone. However, I can see how those arguments might become more convincing to a team that finds itself unable to trade for David Price this winter.

Obviously, the offers the Cubs gets should determine their willingness to pull the trigger on any Samardzija trade. Though the haul for Garza and Feldman was underwhelming when those pitchers were dealt last summer, Samardzija is still under team control for two more years.

If I were the Cubs GM, though, it would have to be a pretty nice package, because just like a piece of the rationale for the Jackson signing, somebody's got to pitch.

The Cubs are not so deep in pitching that they can easily fill Samardzija's spot. They can't count on mining free agent gold like Feldman again. Jackson will be another year older, and any diminishing results from him might lead frustration from those expecting more to boil over into his ouster from the team. For as tough a time as Samardzija has had with his ERA not matching his FIP, Wood has exceeded expectations there by more than half a run each of the last two seasons, and that might not happen again. Other options like Chris Rusin and Jake Arrieta look underwhellming.

In other words, trading Samardzija would mean the Cubs aren't pretending they might start getting things together next year. Not without risking big bucks on a replacement pitcher, or getting an MLB-ready pitching prospect back.

Current Cubs president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer have been pretty candid from the beginning that this was going to be a long rebuilding process. While a lot of Cubs fans have accepted that, it's a different matter being asked to suffer though a third straight season of embarrassing baseball. Not when the second straight year led to the manager being fired

So unless the Cubs are offered a package that looks to surely exceed the value of two more seasons from Samardzija, plus a draft pick when he's offered a qualifying offer before free agency, Hoyer and Epstein should elect to keep their hurler for at least one more season.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

When it comes to the Cubs, Chicago media lose perspective quickly

Right-hander Jake Arrieta struggled Wednesday night in his third start with the Cubs. He lasted just four innings, allowing six earned runs on five hits. He was fortunate to escape with a no-decision as the Washington Nationals thumped Chicago, 11-6.

What significance should we place on Arrieta's poor showing? Well, virtually none. Nobody should put much stock in four or five starts, let alone just one outing.

But when I saw Arrieta struggling, I couldn't help but think of the ludicrous column ESPN's Bruce Levine wrote less than a week ago, which opined that the Cubs "may have found the next staff ace" in the 27-year-old right-hander.

Really, Bruce? Really?

I understand Arrieta had been great in his previous start. He fired seven shutout innings of two-hit ball against a good-hitting St. Louis team on Aug. 16. And it is true Arrieta has a power arm and swing-and-miss stuff.

However, Levine should ask a Baltimore fan sometime about Arrieta's future as "a potential ace." That narrative is nothing new. The Orioles thought so much of Arrieta they made him their Opening Day starter in 2012. Arrieta won his start that day. Also in 2012, Arrieta threw eight shutout innings against the Yankees. He had another outing where he struck out nine Pittsburgh Pirates in seven innings. Alas, those were his only three wins in 18 starts. By the All-Star break, Arrieta had been removed from the rotation.

That's right: In a matter of three months, Arrieta went from presumed staff ace to the Baltimore bullpen. This is a pitcher who has never been a consistent performer. He's a tease; he wows you with great stuff. At times, he can dominate a lineup. Other times, he infuriates you by getting knocked out in the third or fourth inning. He can't be trusted. Why do you think the Orioles were willing to trade him to the Cubs, Bruce? I guarantee you it wasn't because they didn't like his 96 mph fastball.

You see, once a guy gets to be 27 years old, he's no longer a prospect. It's time to put up or shut up. Arrieta never put up in a Baltimore uniform, so they sent him packing. Potential doesn't mean anything for a pitcher of that age. It's all about results now.

I get the sneaking suspicion that Levine and others think Arrieta is still a prospect. He is not. Some members of the Chicago media need to get their heads out of the clouds when it comes to analyzing the Cubs. Let's call Arrieta what he is: a reclamation project.

He had multiple opportunities with the Orioles. He threw them all away. Will the change of scenery help him? Maybe. Matt Thornton was a busted prospect when the White Sox acquired him from the Seattle Mariners in 2006, and he became a valuable bullpen piece on the South Side for years. Sometimes, a reclamation project gets redeemed, but it's always a flip of the coin with these kind of guys.

I know this is a strange concept for some writers, but let's see how Arrieta responds the rest of the year. The Cubs are going to give him a look down the stretch, and why not? If he fails again, he's not hurting anything. But right now, he shouldn't even be penciled into the Cubs' 2014 rotation, let alone be a candidate for the title of "staff ace." 

In my world, the Cubs should be happy if Arrieta becomes a useful back-of-the-rotation starter.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Cubs trade Scott Feldman to Orioles; Carlos Marmol headed to Dodgers

The Cubs began their much-anticipated midseason trading frenzy Tuesday afternoon with a pair of deals.

First, the North Siders sent pitcher Scott Feldman and catcher Steve Clevenger to the Baltimore Orioles for starting pitcher Jake Arrieta (pictured), reliever Pedro Strop and international bonus slots No. 3 and No. 4.

In a second move, the Cubs dealt reliever Carlos Marmol  and international signing bonus slot No. 4 to the Los Angeles Dodgers for reliever Matt Guerrier.

I like what the Orioles did here. Baltimore enters Tuesday's play at 47-36. The Orioles have won four in a row and sit just 2 1/2 games back of the Boston Red Sox in the competitive AL East. But, you have to wonder whether Baltimore can stay in the hunt with such poor starting pitching. Orioles starters have a 4.79 ERA this season; that's the third-highest mark in the American League. That's not what you want as a contending team.

Feldman will help. He is having one of his best seasons, having gone 7-6 with a 3.46 ERA in 15 starts with the Cubs. He's been pitching well above his career norms -- his career ERA is 4.66. But even if he crashes back to reality, he provides Baltimore with a more consistent option than Arrieta or any of the other guys who have toiled at the back end of the Orioles rotation. If I'm Baltimore, I'm still looking for another front-line starter to solidify things, but I'm also feeling better about my chances after adding Feldman in exchange for a couple guys who weren't in my plans.

From the Cubs' perspective, I would guess the international bonus slots are what they coveted in this deal. They are probably angling to sign a prospect or two as international free agency opens this week. Certainly, neither Arrieta nor Strop gives fans any reason to get excited.

Arrieta went 1-2 with a 7.23 ERA in five starts with Baltimore this season. The hard-throwing right-hander owns a career 5.46 ERA in 69 games (63 starts) over parts of four seasons with the Orioles. Arrieta was once considered a top prospect, but now he's nothing more than a 27-year-old reclamation project who will spend some time in Triple-A Iowa.

Strop, 28, had solid overall numbers in 2012 -- a 2.44 ERA in 70 appearances as Baltimore's primary setup man. A closer look reveals he actually had an outstanding first four months, followed by some horrific struggles down the stretch. From April through July of last season, Strop compiled a 1.34 ERA. In August and September, his ERA was 5.12.

It has only gotten worse for the right-hander in 2013. He is 0-3 with a 7.25 ERA in 29 relief appearances. He's been battling back problems throughout the season. Recently, he complained about the home fans booing him off the mound in Baltimore. 

Both Arrieta and Strop seem to be on the fast track to nowhere. The best the Cubs can hope for is a change of scenery getting both back on track.

Speaking of the need for a change of scenery, Marmol is finally out of Chicago. The 30-year-old headcase was 2-4 with a 5.86 ERA in 31 relief appearances before the Cubs designated him for assignment on June 25. Marmol is owed more than $5 million on his $9.8 million contract for this season, and the Cubs will send some cash to the Dodgers for doing them the favor of taking Marmol off their hands. In return, the Cubs get the 34-year-old Guerrier, who is 2-3 with a 4.80 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP in 34 relief appearances this year.

Guerrier will not be part of the solution on the North Side, but hey, he's not as bad as Marmol and he'll eat up some innings in middle relief. That's probably the best thing you can say about his acquisition.