CHICAGO -- Pitching will remain the primary concern of the Chicago Cubs heading into the winter meetings next week in Nashville, Tenn., according to general manager Jed Hoyer.
"We still look at it as an area of need," Hoyer said in a conference call with reporters on Friday. "Organizationally we need a lot of depth. We'll be active trying to find bullpen help at the meetings, for sure, and after. As far as the rotation goes we do have some guys coming off injury that are on our roster so we will be active seeking depth."
The Cubs already signed starters Scott Feldman and Scott Baker this offseason, but Baker is coming off Tommy John surgery. With top-of-the-rotation pitcher Matt Garza also recovering from a stress reaction injury to a bone near his elbow that ended his season in July, the Cubs need depth.
"Things change when you rehab from Tommy John," Hoyer said. "Sometimes guys can be really fast and be ready. Other guys can hit a bump in the road and slow down. We don't want to put ourselves in a position where we're struggling early in the season."
"Our bullpen put too much pressure last year on Camp and Russell," Hoyer said. "We need to avoid that and need to bring in a number of arms to make that a reality."
The Cubs also will be looking for challengers to pitch near the end of the game, Carlos Marmol's usual domain.
"Whenever you build a bullpen you want as many guys that can pitch at the end of the game as possible," Hoyer said.
Marmol is the incumbent closer, but that doesn't mean he'll start the season in that role. The Cubs met recently with Japanese pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa, but Hoyer wouldn't reveal any more about the possibility of signing him. As for trying to make a splash at the winter meetings in an effort to seriously raise the Cubs' win total next season, Hoyer reiterated his end-of-season notion that the degree in which the Cubs lost games last season wouldn't change anything internally.
"Nothing has changed philosophically," he said. "The reality of our season didn't change. We weren't good enough. We weren't competitive enough and we're spending the offseason trying to fill those holes ... with an eye for the future."
He also indicated no one was untouchable on the roster but they would need to be "blown away" to move several players, presumably Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo among them. Hoyer said he's been fielding calls, just as he did the week before the general manager's meetings, but without getting a lot of depth back in return the Cubs probably won't be moving young players off their roster.
"We have a lot of good players, we don't have a ton of surplus," Hoyer said. "Because of that there is no one particular area people are hitting us on."
Expect the Cubs to non-tender several players before Friday's midnight deadline, making them free agents. Third baseman Ian Stewart could be one of them, though Hoyer said whoever the Cubs don't tender, they would try to bring back anyway.
Either way, the Cubs won't be overly busy next week making deals. In fact, Hoyer said that with the ability to stay in touch with agents and other general managers via technology today, the winter meetings aren't as important as they were 10-15 years ago. Now, it's more for the team than for talking to their opponents.
"Winter meetings is more about organizational bonding," he said.