Cubs Roster Moves

So the Cubs are going to sign Scott Hairston, but since the deal isn't official we don't really have comments from TheJedi on his exact purpose. Chances are though, he'll platoon with DeJesus and Schierholtz and be the thunder off the bench late in games. And if they happen to trade Alfonso Soriano at some point, he might just be the starting left fielder. The 33-year old usually puts up OPS numbers around the mid 700's, most of it playing in pitching friendly parks like Oakland, San Diego and Citi Field, although he did start out his career in Arizona. The deal at 2/$5M with up to $1.25M in perfomance bonuses each season is reasonable enough in today's baseball economics, there's also something about another extra $1M being tacked on per year as well. It's probably bad news for Dave Sappelt's hopes of making the Opening Day roster, but doubtful the outfield will stay healthy all season, so he'll probably get his chance. If you're looking for 2 good reasons to like the deal, it's a career .825 OPS versus lefties(.867 last year) and that for his career he sees 3.85 pitches per plate appearance (closer to 4 the last 2 seasons). So another efficient, if not spectacular move by TheJedi.

And then the great 40-man mystery has been solved, although another is awaiting once they deal with Hairston's spot. But last year's Rule 5 pick-up Lendy Castillo has been DFA'd to make room for Carlos Villanueva. If no other team wishes to use up a 40-man spot on him, and he pitched rather poorly this winter, he'll likely be outrighted and wander the Cubs's farm system this season.

According to Patrick Mooney of CSN, the Cubs added OF Brett Lillibridge and OF Darnell McDonald on minor league deals today with spring training invites. They also agreed to a $930K contract with Luis Valbuena, thus avoiding arbitration.

 

Check out the left sidebar for some of the other NRI's to spring training courtesy of Arizona Awesome.

 

UPDATE: Carrie Muskat tweet says Cubs talking to Edwin Jackson and Villanueva, but no deal done with either. And so we wait...


Jon Heyman (and others) are reporting that the Cubs have signed SP Carlos Villanueva, formerly of the Toronto Blue Jays. The 29-year old swingman ran up career highs in innings (125.1) and games started(16) last year for the Blue Jays. Depsite a fastball that won't get over 90 too often, he manages nearly 8 K/9(7.8 to be exact) for his career and a 3.1 BB/9. He's a bit prone to the long ball with a 1.3 HR/9 rate for his career (although his HR/FB% rates are a little higher than the norm) and has a 4.26 career ERA between the Brewers and Blue Jays over 7 seasons (306 games, 56 of those started).

Much like the addition of Scott Feldman, he's being applauded by many of the saber-folks as a good low money risk play this offseason.

We'll see what the money is in this case, but seems like another shrewd, yet unspectacualr move for the Cubs. I don't know if he's been promised a rotation spot, but more likely he'll just be one of the competitors for a spot in spring training and obviously someone comfortable with moving to the pen if and when necessary. Now let's see if Twitter didn't jump the gun again.

LHP Jeff Beliveau was Designated for Assignment yesterday, and 3B Ian Stewart has been officially added to the 40-man roster, so now the Cubs just need to clear one more slot for free-agent OF Nate Schierholtz.


Although it might sound strange, the Cubs could outright Stewart to the minors (but with an NRI to Spring Training) to make room for Schierholtz on the 40, just like when they outrighted Manny Corpas to the minors last off-season in January just a month after he signed a major league contract and was added to the 40-man roster in December.


The Cubs added another short term contract tonight, signing outfield Nate Schierholtz on a one year deal for $2.25M that includes $500K in incentives. As Arizona Phil pointed out, they actually retain the rights to Schierholtz for two seasons as he's only at a little over 4 years of service time. Along with the signings of Scott Feldman and Scott Baker, the Cubs have added over $14M in payroll for next season, almost what they were paying Carlos Zambrano to not play for them.

The Cubs say Schierholtz will start in right field, but could very well platoon with Dave Sappelt. He'll be playing his age 29 season next year and accumulated a 257/321/406 slash line between the Giants and Phillies last year in 269 PA's, good for a 104 OPS+. The good news if they do platoon him is that he put up a more robust 287/360/466 line against righties last year for a 120 OPS+ in 201 PA's last year. But then of course anything can happen in 200 plate appearances. But in 2011, he put up a 288/340/461 line that was good for a 115 OPS+ in 294 PA's. But then anything can happen in nearly 300 PA's. As the years get smaller in numbers, so does his stat line and for his career in 1098 PA's, his slash line is 266/319/413 and a 101 OPS+ against righties. Now 1100 plate appearances carries a little more weight, but the trend is certainly favoring Schierholtz and the Cubs' decision.

As for defense, he's played most of his games in right field, although he did step his toes into center field last year for the Phillies a lucky seven times. If you belive in such things as UZR, they seem to be favorable towards Schierholtz.

Overall, considering the price...it's a pretty decent deal. A well-managed platoon can be very advantageous and maybe Schierholtz can keep up his slash line over 400 or more PA's. If not, he's cheap enough to be a bench player or trade bait and certainly won't be blocking anyone that may force themselves into the lineup (here's looking at you Brett Jackson).

 

 

The 2012 MLB Rule 5 Selection Meeting (AKA "Rule 5 Draft") will be held tomorrow morning in Nashville.

According to Wittenmyer, the Cubs will non-tender 2 of their 5 arbitration eligible players.

The tweet seems to indicate Ian Stewart is one of those two, which leaves M. Garza, J. Samardzija, J. Russell or L. Valbuena as the other. It would seem obvious that Valbuena would be that other, as he's hardly a great loss if they can't resign him for less. I imagine the Cubs would be happy to sign Stewart back for less, but he may very well want to test the market.

 

Hardball Talk is running a list of non-tenders so far, a list of players the Cubs may look into signing, so keep checking back there.

The only other news of note is that Jessie Rogers will take over the ESPN Chicago Cubs beat from Doug Padilla next season, who is moving over to the White Sox. Rogers was covering the Blackhawks beat, which means he had a lot of free time lately.

The Cubs add to their stable of pitchers today, by signing RHP Scott Feldman to a one year deal for $6M, plus $1M in incentives according to various sources. Feldman seemed to be a popular target among Cubs armchair GM's this offseason for reasons unbenknownst to me, but TheJedi seemed to concur. He's certainly cheap enough and getting away from that Texas park and the AL should theoretically help, although his career road vs. home ERA defies conventional wisdom (4.40 at home vs. 5.24 on the road).

Career-wise he's 39-44 with a 4.81 ERA (95 ERA+) and 5.4 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 1.0 HR/9 peripherals. Last year, apparently after recovering from micro-fracture surgery on his knee, his ERA was a robust 5.09 in 132.2 IP. His career high in innings was in 2009 with 189.2 IP. That happened in 2008 when he went 17-8 with a 4.08 ERA (114 ERA+). In the 4 seasons that he's been able to muster at least 20 starts, his ERA+ are 84, 114, 82 and 89 (2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012).

Regardless of those less than spectacular numbers, it's a cheap enough deal that it's hard to get too worked up about it. It's certainly not going to get anyone excited about the season, but should provide some decent depth and the possibility of some upside much like Paul Maholm last year.

BRIEF UPDATE: A most excellent article from Fangraphs comparing Feldman vs. B. McCarthy with bonus tweets from McCarthy about how he changed his style to emulate Feldman and calling him the best bargain this offseason.

Today was the deadline to add players to the 40-man so they wouldn't be eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 draft. The winners were: RHP Trey McNutt, RHP Robert Whitenack, 3B Christian Villanueva and INF Logan Watkins. Nick Struck seems to be the only surprise name left off the 40-man additions...enjoy the Astros! To make room for the additions, Bryan LaHair was desginated for assignment and RHP Carlos Gutierrez was waived and assigned to Iowa after clearing waivers (I swear I don't even know who that is). LaHair is apparently going to sign to play in Japan.

The Cubs also traded RHP Jake Brigham (acquired in the trade for Geovany Soto) right back to the Texas Rangers for RHP Barret Loux and a player to be named later. Brigham allegedly has an elbow injury according to Bruce Miles, so that would explain why the Cubs are getting such high upside with Loux as it must be a reworking of the Soto deal (mighty nice of the Rangers). Loux was a former first round pick of the Diamondbacks (6th overall in 2010) out of Texas A&M. After agreeing on a $2M deal with the D'Backs, the club backed out citing an issue with his elbow and shoulder and the Rangers signed him for $312K later that year as a free agent. 2 years later, he put up a 14-1 mark in AA for the Rangers on a 3.47 ERA (7.1 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 0.7 HR/9) and Texas League pitcher of the year honors.

The Cubs have signed RHP Scott Baker for $5.5M, plus $1.5M in incentives. He became a free agent after the Twins declined his $9.5M option for 2013.

The Good: Baker will be playing his age 31 season and has a career 63-48 record and 3.44 K/BB ratio. His career rates are: 7.2 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 1.2 HR/9. He only costs $5.5M in guaranteed money which is pretty cheap for a starter that threw 170-200 innings in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

The Bad: Baker is coming off "surprise" Tommy John surgery last April. He also missed time in 2011. His ERA+ for his career is just 102.

The Judgement: While most pitchers are back on the mound a year later or less after Tommy John surgery, it's my personal and casual observation that it takes a good 2-3 months after that for the pitcher to regain their full control and consistency. We may see some flashes of his old self, but I don't know if we'll see it start after start at the beginning of the season. And if they are attempting another Paul Maholm signing to try and flip him at the deadline, a good first half is a key part of that successful equation. Also, he's pretty damn mediocre before the injury (ERA+ starting from 2007: 101, 122, 100, 91, 129). It's not a lot of money, but this seems more like pitching depth than any type of solid foundation. Regardless of the Cubs likelihood to not be very competitive in 2013, I don't think it's wise to make unwise decisions. Sure the risk is moderate, but it's hard to see where the upside is any greater in this case. And while the Cubs new regime may have their moments of brilliance, they've also misfired on their evaluations as well (points and laughs at picture of Chris Volstad).  So ultimately it's a big old shrug of the shoulders on this one for me.

 

 

By outrighting eight players and losing two more off waivers over the past couple of days, the Cubs are beginning to clear some space on their MLB Reserve List (40-man roster).

The Cubs MLB Reserve List now stands at 33 players, but three more players (RHP Matt Garza, 3B Ian Stewart, and RHP Arodys Vizcaino) are still on the 60-day Disabled List and they will need to be reinstated no later than the 5th day following the conclusion of the World Series. So the Cubs essentially have a 36-man MLB Reserve List right now.

Catcher Anthony Recker (Designated for Assignment yesterday to make room on the 40-man roster for RHP Carlos Gutierrez after Gutierrez was claimed off waivers from Minnesota) was claimed off waivers today by the New York Mets, and the Cubs have sent RHP Jason Berken (claimed off waivers from Baltimore in September), 2B Adrian Cardenas (claimed off waivers from Oakland last February), RHP Marcos Mateo (who was on the 60-day DL after undergoing TJS in June), and RHP Miguel Socolovich (claimed off waivers from Baltimore in August) outright to Iowa after the quartet cleared waivers. 


Today the Cubs claimed former Twins first round pick (27th pick in 2008 draft) Carlos Gutierrez off waivers after he was outrighted.The 6-3" righty will be 26 next year and was in the midst of his third year at Triple A Rochester. Then his shoulder gave out, which led to arthriscopic surgery for a cleanup by Dr. Yocum in June. Claims are he will be ready for spring training and I'm sure our own Dr. Hecht can elaborate on the surgery details.

Aaron Gleeman had him as the Twins #25 prospect heading into the season.

From the moment they took him 27th overall in the 2008 draft the Twins have talked up Carlos Gutierrez as a future late-inning reliever, touting his "power sinker" and closing experience at the University of Miami. Unfortunately there hasn't been much about his actual performance to match those high hopes, as his impressive ground-ball rate comes attached to terrible control...

He did boost a nifty 60% groundball rate though.

As for the 40-mam carousel, it was catcher Anthony Recker's turn to get off and he was DFA'd to make room for Gutierrez.

I waded through about 5 minutes of clips from "The Benchwarmers" trying to find something funny for this post. 5 minutes I'll never recover...

Anyway, the Cubs are taking advantage of the roster expansion with a few call-ups. The lucky bastards so far include:

(Drumroll)

  • Dave Sappelt, OF
  • Crazy Legs Campana, OF
  • Adrian Cardenas, INF
  • Miguel Socolovich, RHP
  • Jaye Chapman, RHP
  • Rafael Dolis, RHP
  • Anthony Recker, C
  • Chris Rusin, LHP

Rusin is actually taking Brooks Raley spot in the rotation as Raley hit some innings limit on the season and has been shutdown.

In the minors, the Arizona League Cubs lost to the A's team in the one-and-done semifinal playoffs last Thursday (15-3). Boise is the only other affiliate in the playoffs and lost Game 1 to Yakima (Diamondbacks affiliate) last night 5-4 (despite an early 4-1 lead on a Rock Shoulders grand slam). 1st round supplemental pick from this year's draft, Pierce Johnson pitched 3 innings, giving up an unearned run in the losing effort. They play again tonight in a must-win game for Boise.

Cubs vs. Nats tonight; Rusin vs. E. Jackson; Cubs lineup - DeJesus, Valbuena, Rizzo, Soriano, Castro, Castillo, Jackson, Barney.

I've added the Draft pick standings to the left sidebar...might as well do some scoreboard watching.

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