Cubs and White Sox face tricky builds

Updated: December 24, 2011, 11:40 AM ET
By Buster Olney

It's as if the White Sox and Cubs stared into the same abyss, at the same time, and reached the same conclusion, from both ends of Chicago.

A year from now, Carlos Zambrano will be gone from the Cubs, one way or another, Ryan Dempster's current contract will have expired and Randy Wells will have shown whether he's worth an investment or, perhaps, a non-tender. Andrew Cashner will be brought along, but the Cubs aren't sure whether his future will be in the rotation or in the bullpen, and behind him, there isn't a lot of starting pitching in the minor league pipeline.

Mark Buehrle is gone from the White Sox, and a year from now, Jake Peavy's contract will have expired. And -- stop me if you've heard this before -- there isn't a lot of starting pitching in Chicago's minor league pipeline, which is why they swapped Sergio Santos for Nestor Molina, a prospect who could be a No. 2-type starter or a No. 4-type starter, depending on which scout is speaking.

The Cubs need starting pitching for 2013 -- as do the White Sox -- and this is why both teams made investments in their rotations within the same 24-hour news cycle this week.

The White Sox had talked about a three-year deal with John Danks in the past, a deal along the lines of the three-year, $35 million deal that Chad Billingsley signed with the Dodgers. When that effort failed, they then put Danks on the trade market, looking for a huge package for the left-hander -- a deal along the same lines that the Colorado Rockies got for Ubaldo Jimenez, in the eyes of one evaluator. But the White Sox developed very little traction in these talks, primarily because Danks was a year away from free agency. As teams have learned, the trade value of anyone less than two years from free agency -- whether it's Prince Fielder or Johan Santana -- plummets dramatically. If you're a Mat Latos or a Gio Gonzalez and you're four years away from free agency, yes, you'll generate significant offers. But Danks wasn't seen the same way. The White Sox were taken aback by how lukewarm the interest in Danks was, says one executive.