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Chicago Cubs focused on pitching this offseason

The Chicago Cubs have plenty of work to do this off-season, and pitching will be a top priority.

Joe Robbins

The Chicago Cubs (61-101) finished the season 36 games back of the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central in 2012, and although they don't figure to make all the necessary changes this offseason they do hope to get their pitching situation figured out. According to CSN-Chicago, "the Cubs will be in the market for at least two legitimate starting pitchers this winter."

Theo Epstein has been very careful to temper expectations for next season, but he did have this to say about making pitching a top priority:

"Adding to our base of young pitching is the No. 1 priority, as far as scouting and player development now," Epstein said, "because we do feel pretty good about our position-player group. We just have a long ways to go with our pitching.

"It has to catch up. Even when you add major-league pitchers through trade or free agency, if you don't have that strong base of pitching in the minor leagues to support it, it's really hard to have any kind of run of sustained success."

One intriguing prospect that could entice the Cubs is young Japanese pitcher Shohei Otani -- an 18-year-old hurler who can hit triple digits with his fastball.

Jeff Samardzija finally started to pay off this past season, so perhaps Theo and Jed Hoyer will make an effort to find the next hidden gem somewhere away from the conventional routes. Pitching is the hardest thing to lock in for a rebuild in the MLB, so if the Cubs can make strides in that department they will be set up well for the future.