Plan B might not seem attractive but could be efficient for the Cubs if they can't land the rights to negotiate with Japanese free agent pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.

Matt Garza, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez lead the list of top free agent pitchers behind Tanaka, who has drawn interest from marquee teams such as the Yankees, Dodgers and Red Sox, as well as the Cubs.

But the Cubs, who haven't extended themselves in the free agent market this winter, could settle for a lower tier of pitchers that includes former Cubs left-hander Paul Maholm.

Maholm, 31, is available after posting a 10-11 record and 4.41 ERA in 26 starts for the Braves last season. Maholm, however, was 9-6 with a 3.74 ERA in 21 games with the Cubs — including a 6-2 ERA and 2.65 ERA at Wrigley Field — in 2012 before he was dealt to the Braves in a four-player deal before the trading deadline that sent pitching prospect Arodys Vizcaino to the Cubs.

Maholm would add veteran depth to the current rotation of Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson, Jake Arrieta and left-handers Travis Wood and Chris Rusin. Maholm is coming off a two-year, $10.75 million contract.