The cost containment the Cubs gained in potentially club-friendly, long-term deals with Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo in the last nine months could allow them to be more aggressive in building a competitive pitching staff.
How soon? Matt Garza and Travis Wood could be big parts of answering that question.
In Garza's case, it's about whether he returns to form this month after being sidelined by a pair of injuries since last July, and how much his side's willing to give this time around, considering the injuries since an extension was last discussed more than a year ago.
The Cubs don't have any talks with Garza planned at this point.
But Garza, who makes what could be a final minor-league rehab start Wednesday, welcomes the idea.
"It'd be awesome," he said. "But like I said in January, February, March and April, I need to pitch. I can't talk about anything except the next time I get to pitch. I can't do anything. There's no conversations about anything like that - it's just, `how close are you?'
Without the $10.25-million Garza, the Cubs had the third-ranked rotation ERA in the National League through Monday, with short-term starter Scott Feldman and fill-in swingman Carlos Villanueva in the starting five.
Opening Day starter Jeff Samardzija, a priority candidate for contract talks, and $52-million free agent Edwin Jackson already are in the long-term plans.
And the only question with the 26-year-old Wood is whether his rotation-leading start to the season is the sign of longer term success manager Dale Sveum suggested after another impressive start Monday.
"As far as I'm concerned, he's put himself there," Sveum said. "With what he's done since spring training, and over some 30 starts since last year, it's impressive."
Over his last 31 starts, including eight this season, the left-hander is 10-14 with a 3.50 ERA, 192 2/3 innings and 21 quality starts.
"I'd love to be here for a long time with the Cubs," said Wood (4-2, 2.03), "but that's out of my hands."