Cubs interested in Brandon McCarthy and Shaun Marcum

We first heard about the Cubs possible interest in Brandon McCarthy a couple days ago and Gordon Whittenmeyer is confirming the Cubs interest, as well as throwing another name out there: Shaun Marcum.

With starting pitching the Cubs’ primary focus again this winter, they already have expressed interest in Athletics right-hander Brandon McCarthy, who was having a good season until suffering a skull fracture when hit by a line drive in September. He underwent surgery and didn’t pitch again this season but appears to be healthy enough for a comeback effort in 2013.

Brewers free agent Shaun Marcum, a 2009 Tommy John surgery graduate who missed two months in 2012 with elbow tightness, is another buy-low candidate the Cubs are eyeing — and a guy whose character they know well through manager Dale Sveum and pitching coach Chris Bosio.

Marcum has been a better than average starter over the last few seasons. He averaged over 3 WAR per season in 2010 and 2011 and had somewhat of a down season last year, but was still productive. He had a 3.70 ERA and 4.14 FIP last year. His strikeout percentage was almost identical to what it was in 2010 and 2011 (20-21%). His walk percentage was up just a bit to 7.8% from 6.9% and 6.0% the previous two seasons.

Marcum has never been a high strikeout percentage, but he's never had trouble striking them out either. This has always surprised me considering his velocity is rarely better than 90 mph. His average fastball last year was less than 87 and it was about the same as the year before.

I was a bit concerned about Dan Haren's drop in velocity because he had relied on it to some extent to strike batters out, but Marcum has done so without the velocity. If his medical report is solid, I think this would be a good pickup for the Cubs.

He can probably be expected to contribute about 2 WAR or so, which makes him worth approximately $10 million on the free agent market. Considering the injury risk, I'd not be willing to go that high and I'd want at least a club option added to the deal too. I'm not sure he could be add for only 1 year, but it's possible Marcum wants to prove he's healthy and hit the free agent market next season.

If the Cubs were to sign both of these guys, the Cubs rotation would suddenly look like a strength when you add in Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija. It's also a rotation that is flirting with disaster.

You've got the injury prone McCarthy, a pitcher who has perhaps recovered from an elbow injury and another pitcher who hasn't yet shown he has recovered from an arm injury in Garza. Then you have Samardzija who is coming off of only one good season and he's yet to pitch a full year. After him you've got Travis Wood and a bunch of nothing. That could be a fun rotation, but it could also lead to a rotation that is headlined by a struggling Samardzija and Wood followed by the likes of Brooks Raley and Chris Rusin.

That would probably be even less fun than 2012. The question is, is the potential upside worth it? If both of them prove they're healthy, could the Cubs get a decent return midseason like they did with Paul Maholm? They have nothing to lose.