Paul Maholm sees no reason the Chicago Cubs can't win, even though they haven't done much of that lately.
The Cubs agreed to a one-year contract that guarantees the left-hander $4.75 million US and should add depth to their starting rotation. The deal announced Tuesday includes a $4.25 million salary for this year and $6.5 million club option for 2013 and $500,000 buyout.
"The guys that are there have the ability to win," Maholm said. "For whatever reason, it wasn't happening."
He says there's no clear-cut favourite in the NL Central and that the Cubs have a chance as long as "everybody just has their normal years."
The 29-year-old Maholm made 26 starts for Pittsburgh last season, going 6-14 despite a 3.66 ERA, before shutting it down because of a left shoulder strain. He was 53-73 over seven seasons with the Pirates.
Maholm said the shoulder shouldn't be an issue. He's been long tossing and plans to start bullpen sessions next week.
"It was a pulled muscle," Maholm said. "It wasn't anything huge. More or less the timing of when it happened is the reason I missed the end of the season. I just wanted to make sure that it was healthy and I didn't do anything further to my shoulder."
In Chicago, he joins Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster of Gibsons, B.C., and newcomer Chris Volstad in the rotation, along with Randy Wells and possibly Jeff Samardzija. The Cubs have been listening to offers for Garza and would like top prospects, but general manager Jed Hoyer insisted they weren't setting themselves up to make another move by signing Maholm.
"I'm not going to comment on trade rumours, but it is important to know that this isn't a precursor deal," Hoyer said.
Meanwhile, reliever Kerry Wood remains unsigned. Hoyer said management still would like to get a deal completed and retain the popular veteran.
"We continue to want Kerry back in Chicago, and we've offered him a substantial raise and we certainly hope it gets done," he said.
As for Maholm, Hoyer said, "His won-loss record really doesn't reflect his ability. He's pitched on some teams in Pittsburgh that have struggled, but he's been a guy that takes the ball, eats a lot of innings and has really kept his team in games."
Maholm allowed two earned runs or fewer in 14 of his 26 starts last season but got the win in only six of those outings. His run support average of 3.38 was the fifth-lowest in the National League.
Maholm said he preferred to stay in the NL, particularly in the Central now that slugger Albert Pujols is gone and Prince Fielder is possibly on his way out. Another draw in Chicago was playing for new Cubs manager Dale Sveum, who managed in the Pittsburgh system before Maholm arrived.
"A lot of guys that I played with in Pittsburgh played for him and loved him," Maholm said. "He's very knowledgeable, (has a) passion for the game, works hard. I got the chance to talk to him a little after Christmas, and I'm looking forward to getting to pick his mind."