Cubs Sign Four Free-Agent Pitchers to Minor League Contracts

12/14 UPDATE: Baseball America reports that the Cubs have re-signed three of the four players who were non-tendered on 12/2 to 2017 minor league contracts: LHP , RHP  (claimed off waivers from NYY last month), and LHP .

All three will presumably receive an NRI to Spring Training. 

The fourth non-tendered player (3B ) did not re-sign with the Cubs, so he will probably try his luck with a new organization (could be seeking a major league deal). Villanueva would be blocked by both Kris Bryant and Jeimer Candelario if he were to remain with the Cubs. 

Concepcion was non-tendered so that the Cubs would not have to pay him a $600,000 minor league "split salary" in 2017, Mullee missed the last half of the 2016 season with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (may have undergone surgery), and Rosscup underwent shoulder surgery last March. 

By non-tendering Concepcion, Mullee, and Rosscup and then re-signing them to minor league contracts, the Cubs were able to remove the trio from the MLB 40-man roster without exposing the players to waivers, and by waiting a week to re-sign them, the Cubs did not risk losing them in the Rule 5 Draft. 


ORIGINAL POST (12/13) - Baseball America is reporting that the Cubs have signed four free-agent pitchers to 2017 minor league contracts.

All four will likely receive an NRI to Spring Training with the big club.

Three of the names are probably somewhat familiar, as two of them have pitched in the big leagues with other MLB organizations, and a third was in the Cubs minor league system last season. 

As a practical matter the four were officially signed after the Rule 5 Draft so that they would not be eligible for selection, but the contracts were likely negotiated sometime earlier in the off-season.   

1. , RHP (ex-ATL)
2. , RHP (ex-LAD)
3., RHP (ex-PIT)
4. , RHP (ex-CUBS)

Owner of a 97-98 MPH fastball, the 27-year old Cleto was signed by the Seatttle Mariners out of the Dominican Republic in 2009 and was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for SS Brendan Ryan 2010... he was rated by Baseball America as having the best fastball,in the SAL in 2008 (he was hitting 99 on the gun back then) and was a BA organizational Top 20 prospect three times (#16 post-2008 for SEA and #16 post-2010 and #14 post-2012 with STL)... he was a starting pitcher through the 2011 season, but then was moved to the bullpen... he was claimed off waivers by the Kansas City Royals in 2013 and then was claimed off waivers by the White Sox in 2014, and he got most of his big league work with the Sox (28 games in 2014)... he pitched in 41 MLB games combined between the Cardinals and the White Sox (working to a combined 6.60 ERA and 1.76 WHIP but with 58 K in just 45 IP) in 2011-14 (he had some crazy K/9 numbers in the minors, too) but was outrighted to AAA by the Sox in 2015... he split the 2016 season between Laguna (Mexican League) and AAA Gwinnett (ATL)... he is presently working out of the bullpen for Licey in Liga de Beisbol Dominicano... he is out of minor league options (0+169 MLB Service Time) should he be called up to Chicago and added to the Cubs MLB 40-man roster at some point in 2017, and since he has been outrighted previously in his career, he would be able to elect to be a free-agent if he is outrighted again... 

Corcino is 26 and was signed by the Cincinnati Reds as a 16-year old out of the Dominican Republic in 2006... he was ranked by Baseball America as one of the Reds Top 15 prospects four years in a row (as high as #6 after the 2011 season and #4 after 2012), drawing comps (at the time) to Johnny Cueto... back when he was a stud prospect with the Reds, BA reported that he was presenting a 91-94 MPH fastball with movement, a plus-slider, and a promising change-up... he was on the MLB 40-man roster of the Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers (he was claimed off waivers by the Dodgers in 2015) for three seasons and he had a "cup of coffee" with the Reds in late 2014 but was back in the minors in 2015-16... he is currently working out of the bullpen for Escogido in Liga de Beisbol Dominicano... like Cleto, Corcino is out of minor league options (0+034 MLB Service Time) should he be called up to Chicago and added to the Cubs MLB 40-man roster at some point in 2017, and since he has been outrighted previously in his career, he would be able to elect to be a free-agent if he is outrighted again...   

At 23, Medina is the youngest of the foursome... he was signed as a 16-year old by the Baltimore Orioles out of Venezuela in 2009 and was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012... after seven seasons in the minors, he finally reached AAA in 2016... Kiley McDaniel at Fangraphs reported in April 2016 that the 5'11 Medina was featuring a 92-94 MPH fastball that touched 96, an above-average splitter, and a decent curve, but he also continues to have command issues (207 BB in 393 IP in 198 career minor league games)... he was declared a first-time minor league 6YFA after the conclusion of the World Series... 

The 28-year old Mejia was born in Brooklyn but grew up in Puerto Rico... he was signed as a NDFA by the Detroit Tigers out of Florida International University in 2009 and spent three seasons in the Tigers system... he then pitched for the Saitamo Seibu Lions in Japan (NPB) during the summer and for Caguas (Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente) in winter ball 2011-16... he left Japan and signed a minor league contract with the Cubs last off-season and he split the 2016 season between AA Tennessee and AAA Iowa... he has been pitching out of the bullpen for Caguas again this off-season, and he could be a reliever for Team Puerto Rico in the 2017 WBC... 


The Cubs have not yet released thrir NRI list for 2017 Spring Training, but here is an early preliminary projected list (obviously subject to change):

* bats or throws left
# bats both

Andury Acevedo
Dallas Beeler
Corey Black
Maikel Cleto
Trevor Clifton
Daniel Corcino
Seth Frankoff
Jhondaniel Medina
Miguel Mejia
Jordan Pries
Nick Sarianides
Ryan Williams

Cael Brockmeyer 
Taylor Davis
P. J. Higgins

# Ian Happ  

John Andreoli
Eloy Jimenez 
* Bijan Rademacher 
Mark Zagunis

Expect the Cubs to sign at least one veteran defense-first catcher they can stash at Iowa (as they did with Tim Federowicz in 2016 and with Taylor Teagarden in 2015).

One possible candidate is Ryan Hanigan, who played for Joe Maddon in Tampa Bay in 2014.

Hanigan also could conceivably serve as Jon Lester's personal catcher if things don't mesh between Lester and Willson Contreras and/or if Maddon wants to go with three catchers on the 25-man roster and Kyle Schwarber isn't able to be the #3. 

The Cubs also will likely look to sign at least one infielder with MLB experience who can play SS and who they can keep at Iowa. Munenori Kawasaki would be a good possibility if he wants to come back, but it's hard to sell a AAA gig (even as an everyday player) to a veteran.  

poor ryan hanigan...they dragged him to the bigs last year to catch knuckleballer steven didn't go well all the time, but he still got the job done.

Phil, I was hoping Chesny Young would make your invite list.

HAGSAG: Good catch. I probably should have put him on the list. 

The Cubs ever actually sign Uehara? Lots of buzz about it, but I never saw it confirmed.

BILLYBUCKS: The Uehara signing has not been officially reported yet.

There is often a delay between when a signing is reported in the media and when the club announces the signing and files the contract with MLB (especially for a player signed during the off-season).

Jesse Rogers‏ @ESPNChiCubs The Cubs and pitcher Koji Uehara have agreed to terms. One year for $6 million.

be fun to see him and hendricks back to back...guys get in on some 88mph cheese followed up by a guy who throws about 85mph.

Guess I just had to ask. OK, let's try it again: "Did the Cubs ever actually sign Mike Trout?"

The Cubs have officially signed Trout for an infield rake


i'm gonna miss that rake, but the club could use an upgrade in CF.

The Cubs Can of Simoniz has not been available for comment, but some speculate it may request a trade following the departure of Infield Rake.

now i just hate this trade. this trout guy better be good.

The MLBPA Executive Board has ratified the 2016-21 CBA, so it is official. (MLB owners ratified the agreement earlier this week).

The CBA will expire on December 1, 2021. 


David Rollins DFA again. Another lefty option!

Just as a reminder, clubs now have only seven days to trade, outright, or release a player who has been Designated for Assignment (used to be ten days).  

With three slots open on the 40-man roster, I would expect the Cubs to claim David Rollins and most any other warm body who gets placed on waivers after being Designated for Assignment, like maybe Red Sox 2011 2nd round draft pick LHP (ex-OF) Williams Jerez (who was drafted by the Red Sox when Theo was there) and one-time Nationals Top 10 prospect LHP Matt Purke (a true "LOOGY" who is death on LH hitters), and then if and when any of the three slots are needed, the players claimed off waivers (if there are any) will be the first to go. 

What could go wrong? Ask the Barves Gm twitter

Oh man do I love all the crap he got for that. Wish he had taken a moment to even give lip service to compensating employees for labor and opening up opportunities for people who don't carry a significant financial safety net.

on a somewhat related note: NBA just ratified their new deal and are paying their minor leaguers $50K-$75K a season.

Minor league baseball players get around $10-$15K a season I believe. Yes, some get nice bonuses, most don't.

ROB G: NBA "minor leaguers" are more-comparable to players on an MLB 40-man roster who have a minor league "split salary" if they are optioned to the minors. (The NBA "D"-league is like AAA in baseball). The 2017 MLB minimum minor league "split salary" is $86,500, so that's comparable to the salaries of NBA D-league players.

And minor league 6YFA (the ones who get an NRI to Spring Training, like the guys the Cubs signed this week)  usually get around $50,000 (or even upwards of $100,000+ if the player has MLB experience), because they have some leverage as free-agents.  

Minor league baseball players who are not on MLB 40-man rosters and are not yet eligible to be free-agents (like John Andreoli, Taylor Davis, Jordan Pries, and most-all of the amateur players drafted and/or signed by the Cubs over the past six or seven years) are the ones making $10K-$15K per year, but there is no real comp to that in pro basketball. Maybe that would be more like college basketball? 

BTW. that's why minor league players really need to save their signing bonus, because they might not ever see money like that again, or at least not anytime soon. Unfortunately, some of them blow through their bonus in a matter of months, and I've known a number of minor league players over the years (even a few high draft picks) who were flat-broke and had to rely on their parents, wife, or girlfriend to support them.

OMG PHIL! So they go out and buy Mercedes' and expensive clothes, etc.? Isn't ther some financial conseling like the NFL has FINALLY been doing? No doubt as you've said - those without the discipline probably blow right through that bonus.

ESPN's 30-for-30 "Broke" should be mandatory viewing for all professional athletes. Hey, you're 20, you're talented, never had to work for a thing in your life, everybody always telling you how great you are, and suddenly you get a bunch of money -- why not assume the good times will continue to roll? The percentage of pro athletes who are bankrupt 5 years after retirement is staggering.

...and on the flipside we have matt harrington, who managed to parlay his top-ranked talent into working at costco. he turned down a couple 1-4 million dollar contracts and another one for a few hundred thousand over a number of years. he cut out the middle man and went straight for isle 3.

You don't like Costco?

obviously not.

Recent comments

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  • crunch 57 min 39 sec ago (view)

    d.ross meets the media at winter


  • jdrnym 5 hours 14 min ago (view)

    Hey AZPhil, when a player is released with money/years still remaining on his contract, does his next team *have* to give him the prorated major league minimum or can they offer more (meaning the original club owes less) to "outbid" other teams that may have had interest? I'm assuming that's what happened with Brad Brach, where the Mets signed him for 2020 at $850,000.


  • crunch 5 hours 58 min ago (view)

    jeremy jeffress agrees.


  • Rob Richardson 9 hours 39 min ago (view)

    It's high time if you ask me.


  • crunch 9 hours 56 min ago (view)

    as awesome as bryant is, it would probably be good for the cubs to find him a new home before his play at 3rd turns him into a corner OF'r...which seems inevitable sooner than later.

    i'm still impressed how much his D improved since he was drafted, but he's already losing a step at the position early in his career.


  • crunch 10 hours 2 min ago (view)

    minor league ballplayers will no longer have to worry about getting suspended for testing positive for's off the prohibited substances list.

    about time.


  • Arizona Phil 20 hours 14 min ago (view)

    3B Alec Bohm and RHSP Spencer Howard would likely be the Cubs asking price and the Phils probably say no, but if they don't say no, that could be a deal. 


  • crunch 23 hours 37 min ago (view)

    Bruce Levine @MLBBruceLevine
    Cubs have had talks with Phils on Bryant. Nothing there at the moment. Service time grievance still an issue.


  • bradsbeard 1 day 12 min ago (view)

    Humerous 30 minutes this morning when both Mark Gonzalez and Gordon Wittenmyer tweeted out that the Cubs would be receiving Conor Lillis-White as the PTBNL in the Tommy La Stella trade as if it were just now happening. 


  • crunch 1 day 22 hours ago (view)

    marvin miller and ted simmons are part of the next HOF class.

    long time coming for miller.


  • crunch 2 days 3 hours ago (view)

    things that are important to good on-field play like buying up all the property around wrigley field, from rooftops to acerage, isn't going to monetize itself.

    i know some people would love to have a top tier pitcher, but i'm looking forward to more control of rooftop advertising and an open air beer garden near the team owned hotel and resturant complexes.

    i know some people want a solid leadoff man, but i'm looking forward to seeing 10-20 concerts on off-days destroying the playing field so that extra revenue can help a polician in Nebraska or Iowa get some ad buys.


  • Hagsag 2 days 4 hours ago (view)

    Their friend Donald will come through for them.


  • crunch 2 days 5 hours ago (view)

    remember when the billionaire owners got a huge double digit tax cut?

    maybe the city should do them a favor and give them more tax savings help to let them buy and build another 2-3 revenue projects outside of the park.  that might help these struggling heroes find some extra loot.

    i know this rant isn't fair, but my "dan winkler got a MLB contract fever" is dying down a bit.


  • crunch 2 days 5 hours ago (view)

    f'real.  i don't even know why they're going to bother playing games.  i'm over here printing Cubs 2020 World Series Champs banners while others are sleeping on reality.


  • Dolorous Jon Lester 2 days 6 hours ago (view)

    Just saw a fun report that the Cubs are telling even budget type free agents they can't currently negotiate until they clear some payroll. So that's a fun start to the winter meetings.


  • Dolorous Jon Lester 2 days 6 hours ago (view)

    I'm with you 100% on that. Minor league retreads are fine and all but we don't need to be paying premiums for middle relief.