The offseason following the 2012 has been relatively busy for the Cubs, almost of which has been trades and signings they didn't make. One of the signings they did make, however, was bringing over Scott Feldman on a one-year, $6 million deal.
I don't really get it.
Scott Feldman is a fair injury risk, missing a good chunk of time essentially every year of the past 6 (the only time he's had over 165 organizational innings was 2009). Even when he's healthy, he's not that great. He sports a career 4.81 ERA gleaned from a 4.56 FIP, and the xFIP shows 4.52 as well. He was worth 2.3 fWAR (0.0 bWAR) last year, but still gave up over 5 runs per 9. In 2012, he was eminently replacement-level.
The Cubs are gambling on Feldman's health and the changeover from AL West to NL Central. They are also looking for the upside in 32 innings of 2011 ball and 189.2 innings in 2009, which was 3 injuries away. This is a gamble they will likely lose.
Feldman is interesting in the sense that he abandoned his fastball in 2010. He doesn't really throw one anymore, it's more of a slider. He throws his slider around 35% of the time now, and it sits at 91 mph and frankly isn't that good. It's never rated as more than average according to PITCHf/x. Feldman also throws a 90 mph cutter (25%) and a 77 mph curve (25%), and both are average to middling offerings. Feldman will throw the occasional 86 mph change (10%) and 90 mph fastball (5%), but neither are effective or notable.
Feldman has very average stuff. He works in the zone a little more than the average pitcher, and as a result batters tend to make a little more contact off of him. He doesn't induce a lot of swinging strikes, but Feldman takes the tradeoff in the form of a very acceptable walk rate (2.33 per 9 last year). The increased contact also makes the typical Feldman plate appearance take more pitches than average; Feldman isn't going to get very deep into starts.
The Feldman signing makes sense with respect to the need to have competent pitching at the back end of a roster. I'm not sure it makes sense from the standpoint of creating a flippable asset, as I don't think the market for #4 or #5 starters is going to be positively bare at the trade deadline. In any case, it's only $6 million, and the Cubs can certainly afford it. I don't think it's a low-risk, high-reward situation; it's more like low-risk, low-reward. Time will tell if Scott #2 proves me wrong.