Potential Starting Pitchers for 2012 Chicago Cubs (January Preview): Fan’s Take

The Chicago Cubs have completely restructured their starting rotation by acquiring a couple left-handed starting pitchers and trading Carlos Zambrano to the Florida Marlins. There could be as many as three new pitchers in the starting rotation for 2012. There might even be more if Matt Garza or Ryan Dempster were to be traded before April.

Here is a brief preview of the potential starting pitchers as of January 2012.

Safe Bets For Opening Day Starting Rotation (Unless Traded)

Matt Garza

2011 stats: 31 starts, 198 innings pitched, 10-10 record, 3.32 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, two complete games.

Summary: Matt Garza has been rumored as the most-luxurious trading asset for the Cubs' rebuilding efforts. With that said, there's no debate in that Garza is the ace pitcher of this staff as long as he remains healthy and hasn't been traded.

Ryan Dempster

2011 stats: 34 starts, 202.1 innings pitched, 10-14 record, 4.80 ERA, 1.45 WHIP.

Summary: Ryan Dempster has been a full-time starting pitcher with the Cubs since he posted a 2.96 ERA in 33 starts in 2008. Dempster's ERA has regressed in each of his three seasons since then. He has pitched 200 or more innings in each of the past four seasons.

Dempster turns 35-years-old on May 3. He'll also become a free agent after this season. Dempster could be motivated by this being a contract year. Contrarily, he could also be benched by September if he doesn't pitch better than he did in 2011. A 4.80 ERA doesn't even qualify as a quality start (4.50 ERA).

Not Locks, But Pretty Close

Paul Maholm

2011 stats: 26 starts, 162.1 innings pitched, 6-14 record, 3.66 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, one complete-game shutout.

Summary: While the 6-14 record isn't pretty, Paul Maholm does give the Cubs a veteran left-handed pitcher that they've lacked since they traded Ted Lilly before the July trade deadline in 2010. Furthermore, his respectable 3.66 ERA and 1.29 WHIP indicate that his record was more of the Pittsburgh Pirates' inability to score runs when he was pitching.

Maholm would need a disastrous spring training to not figure into the rotation. I could see him passing Dempster as the No. 2 pitcher if they both pitched like they did in 2011. A one-through-four slotting of Garza-Maholm-Dempster-Wood would give them right-left-right-left before they hit their No. 5 pitcher.

Travis Wood

2011 stats: 18 starts (22 appearances), 106 innings pitched, 6-6 record, 4.84 ERA, 1.49 WHIP

Summary: Travis Wood was acquired in the deal that sent left-handed setup specialist Sean Marshall to the Cincinnati Reds. Considering that Marshall is one of MLB's best left-handed relievers and he went to a divisional rival, one can bet that Wood will receive every opportunity to make the starting rotation.

Wood does have upside as he'll turn 25-years-old on February 6. He had a strong MLB debut when he had a 3.51 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in his first 17 starts in 2010.

Mambo No. 5?

Chris Volstad

2011 stats: 29 starts, 165.2 innings pitched, 5-13 record, 4.89 ERA, 1.42 WHIP.

Summary: Chris Volstad finished the 2011 season on a high note as six of his last seven starts were quality starts. Volstad was once regarded as one of the top prospects in the Florida Marlins' farm system. He had a solid MLB debut in 2008 when he had a 2.88 ERA in 14 starts (15 appearances). Since then, he hasn't finished a season with an ERA better than 4.58.

Volstad could be an ideal No. 5 starter because he's an innings-eater who rarely gets injured. He should be one of three candidates who are considered for the final spot in the rotation. At 25-years-old, he's the youngest of those candidates.

Jeff Samardzija

2011 stats: No starts (75 appearances), 88.0 innings pitched, 8-4 record, 2.97 ERA, 1.30 WHIP

Summary: Jeff Samardzija has started five games since 2009. Samardzija developed into a very reliable middle reliever after he surrendered that home run to Albert Pujols last June. He finished the season with 13 holds and a 2.97 ERA.

The Cubs may give him one more chance as a starting pitcher. At 27-years-old, the question is whether Samardzija can sustain success over a stretch of six or more innings. Yet, can the Cubs afford to lose another reliever after they just dealt Marshall to the Reds? What can be expected of an aging Kerry Wood and an "Uncontrollable" Carlos Marmol?

Randy Wells

2011 stats: 23 starts, 135.1 innings pitched, 7-6 record, 4.99 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, two complete games with one shutout.

Summary: Randy Wells' inconsistency can drive fans bonkers. Wells' 4.99 ERA in 23 starts shows his proneness to poor outings. Yet, he'll have those stretches like he did from August 24 through September 10, 2011. That was a four-game stretch where he went 3-0 with a complete-game shutout. He only surrendered four earned runs and 18 hits in 28.2 innings pitched.

Can Wells trim down the 23 home runs that he surrendered in 2011? At 29-years-old, I think it'll be difficult for him to make it out of spring training as anything more than a long-relief pitcher with occasional spot-starting duties. Wells might not even make the 25-man roster if Samardzija steals that No. 5 spot from Volstad.

Nothing More Than Insurance Policies, Right?

Rodrigo Lopez

Casey Coleman

Keep On The Lookout

Jay Jackson

Rafael Dolis

Dillon Maples

Trey McNutt

Joshua Huffman grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula as a Green Bay Packers and Chicago Cubs enthusiast. He immediately gained an admiration for Cubs fans after watching numerous games on WGN during the mid-90s. His favorite Cubs moment was Kerry Wood's 1-hitter, 20K extravaganza that was only denied of a no-hitter by Kevin Orie's defensive blunder. As a Packers and Cubs fan, he suffered through Steve Bartman and "4th & 26" in a span of three months.

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Joshua Huffman is a member of the Yahoo! Contributor Network.
Updated Wednesday, Jan 25, 2012