Yeah, he had a 4.80 ERA in relief last season, I know. He was walking nearly 5 guys per 9 innings. Command was obviously a problem. And it probably wasn't his only problem, either. But even so, I think that Andrew Cashner should be the Cubs' fifth starter going into next season. And if they aren't willing to go that far, at the very least he should be in Triple-A preparing himself for the day when he fills that role.
Carlos Silva has proven that he's not an awful pitcher. You don't post four seasons with 2+ WAR and three seasons with 3+ WAR if you're an awful pitcher. You might get lucky and pitch one, but you're doing something right if you make it through four. Yet the key here isn't that Silva isn't an awful pitcher; it's that he's not a particularly good one, and there's no chance that he'll ever be great. He's got exceptional command, and he can eat some innings when he's not taking after the wrong Carlos and picking fights in the dugout. But he's never missed bats like he did last season, and at nearly 32 it's not likely that he's somehow found a new way to get hitters out after seven seasons in the majors.
That's why I want to see what Cashner can do. He's got the big-time raw stuff, with a powerful fastball and a legit out-pitch in his slider. He was making big strides in terms of his development as a starter before the Cubs brought him up the big league bullpen for most of last season. There's no reason to believe that he can't continue to make those strides if he's placed back into the same program. And unlike Silva, there's the potential for greatness there. And when you're a fourth-place club that's looking towards the future, the long-term potential of someone like Cashner outweighs the short-term benefits of someone like Silva.
Cashner probably won't be the difference between making or missing the playoffs in 2011, regardless of the role he's in. But if the Cubs want to make their future feel a bit more exciting, they should probably focus on putting together that Garza-Cashner-Trey McNutt top of the rotation for 2012-2013. Because they're not going to be winning any divisions with Randy Wells as their No. 2 starter.