Cubs Sign Three Minor League Free-Agents

Besides re-signing free-agent RHP Chad Fox to a minor league contract, the Cubs have signed three minor league free-agents in recent days, including one player who (as things stand now) actually has a legitimate chance to make the Cubs 2009 Opening Day Roster.

The three recent signees are veteran catcher Mark Johnson, ex-SF AA LHRP Jason Waddell, and ex-DET AA RHRP Angel Castro.   

The 33-year old left-handed hitting Johnson was a #1 draft pick of the White Sox way back in 1994, and was one of the players the Sox sent to OAK in the Keith Foulke for Billy Koch and Neal Cotts trade in December 2002. Since then, Johnson has bounced around like a billiard ball, moving from OAK to MIL to the Cubs (he played at AAA Iowa in 2005) back to MIL, then to ATL, and onward to STL.

Johnson is the epitome of a "4-A" player, a guy who gets a Non-Roster Invitation (NRI) to Spring Training with an MLB club every year and can always find a job at AAA, but has difficulty taking advantage of opportunities at the big league level (254/383/356 lifetime minor league hitter, with 218/314/318 lifetime MLB numbers).  .

Over his 15-year pro career, Johnson has spent all or parts of eight different seasons in the major leagues, including three full seasons with the White Sox (1999, 2000 and 2002) where he was used as a platoon catcher, alternating with the likes of Brook Fordyce, Josh Paul, and Sandy Alomar, Jr. Johnson's most recent MLB action came last September with the Cardinals, where hit .294 in ten games. and while he isn't much of a hitter and while he is virtually devoid of power (he's a poor man's Paul Bako), Johnson does take a lot of walks. 

Why this matters is because 2008 Cubs back-up catcher Henry Blanco is a free-agent, and he may not return to Chicago in 2009. With reigning N. L. Rookie of the Year Geovany Soto the #1 guy, the Cubs are unlikely to spend much on a back-up catcher, and since top catching prospect Welington Castillo probably still at least a year away, the Spring Training battle for the Cubs #2 catcher job in 2009 would appear (at this point anyway) to be between hold-over Koyie Hill and Mark Johnson, with the loser likely to be the #1 catcher at AAA Iowa. 

27-year old LHP Jason Waddell was the Giants' 8th round pick out of Riverside CC in June 2001, and he has spent his entire career in the SF organization, never pitching above AA. He spent the last five seasons bouncing back-and-forth between San Jose and Connecticut, and will likely battle for a lefty reliever job at AAA Iowa in 2009. Whether he will get an NRI to Spring Training with the Cubs has not been announced, but I would bet he will.

26-year old RHP Angel Castro is from the Dominican Republic, but he played college ball in the U. S. at Western Oklahoma State JC. He was drafted by the Tigers in the 13th round of the 2006 Rule 4 Draft, and spent the last three seasons pitching in the Tigers minor league system before getting released last month. He was not a six-year minor league FA, so it is not clear why the Tigers chose to release him at this time. It looks like he had a really nice season in 2008, though. He is presently pitching for Azucareros in the DWL.  

A scouting report from 2006 projected Castro as a reliever, with a 90-93 fastball that ccasionally touched 95 and a "darting" knuckle-curve, but if he had that kind of stuff in 2008 at AA one would think the Tigers probably wouldn't have released him.

While it's unknown if Castro will get an NRI to Spring Training with the Cubs in 2009, he will probably be given an opportunity to compete for a bullpen job at AAA Iowa.

Comments

I thought the Cubs' plan was to bring back Hank but at a lower price, hence the buyout. They're already in for $300K, so if Hendry can sign him for say, $1.2MM max, I bet that gets done. Geo seems to like Hank, I wonder if that counts for anything with the brass. Phil, isn't Koyie Hill still a FA? I didn't know the Cubs already brought him back.

Submitted by Jim Hickmans Bat on Fri, 12/05/2008 - 3:16pm.

I thought the Cubs' plan was to bring back Hank but at a lower price, hence the buyout. They're already in for $300K, so if Hendry can sign him for say, $1.2MM max, I bet that gets done. Geo seems to like Hank, I wonder if that counts for anything with the brass.

Phil, isn't Koyie Hill still a FA? I didn't know the Cubs already brought him back.

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JIM H: The Cubs would probably like to bring Henry Blanco back for less money, but he might have other ideas.

As for Koyie Hill, he has been on the Cubs 40-man roster since the Cubs brought him up from Iowa on September 1st, and I would expect him to remain on the 40 at least until Blanco re-ups (if he does). 

Greg Maddux to announce retirement at Winter Meetings. Can't wait for 5 years from now to see him hopefully be come first unanimous HOF'er. Thanks for the memories!!!!

I agree that reserve catcher may be one of the places Hendry looks to save some salary in 2009. Is KC serious about contending? Wonder if they'd be interested in a Buck for Marquis deal.

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In reply to by Jim Hickmans Bat

I had forgot about Hochevar. Bannister is not one year removed from receiving Cy Young votes. He is however one year removed from having a solid ERA supported by an unsustainable BABIP. Marquis would be their third starter, though Davies or Hochevar could supplant him by the end of the year. The point in trading Marquis for Buck is that we get an established ML catcher to back up Soto, not a Sunday backup, but a guy who we won't have to say 'Oh shit what are we going to do now that Soto has a broken leg' backup, while shedding a chunk of salary so which can be spent on Peavy or the new RF'r.

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In reply to by The Real Neal

But why trade for Buck? Buck is a turd. There is a reason Miguel Olivo got 300+ ABs last year. Sign Blanco to be the backup catcher. They will hit about the same, Blanco's defense is far superior (compare 16% CS to 45%), he expects to be a backup, he knows the pitching staff, he knows the coaching staff, works well with Z, is great in the clubhouse, and they cost the same. If the idea is to shed Marquis's salaray, then at least trade him for something we need - LF, bullpen arm, loogy, etc.

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In reply to by Rob G.

I read that article based on some KC blogger's article last year. The thing about two strikes was pretty telling. The KC Fan thought that Bannister would do what we want Zambrano to do, throw strikes, and if you get to two strikes on a guy, then try to get the K, but otherwise, just keep it down in the zone. But then when I looked at Bannister's stats - he wasn't really any better with 2 strikes than you would expect. To be a succesful major leaguer, you've got to get a lot of GB's or a lot of K's. At this point, it doens't look like Bannister is going to be able to do either. I do like the fact that he's trying to figure it out, though. It took Maddux 6 years to do that, but he started off with better talent.

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In reply to by The Real Neal

speaking of Maddux and 2 strikes...great story on XM radio last night from Leo Mazzone.

Maddux comes over from the Braves and is throwing a bullpen session, I'm guessing first day of spring training or something. They're chatting and stuff and Greg tells Mazzone, just tell Bobby Cox I'm going to give up a lot of 0-2 hits and not to get mad.

Mazzone is like okay, but do I mind explaining why, because I'm pretty sure he's going to get mad when I tell him. So Maddux explains that at 0-2, the hitter has the biggest disadvantage and that's when Maddux is going to try and get him out, instead of wasting a bunch of pitches.

So Mazzone goes to  Cox, who's like, wtf are you talking about....Mazzone explains what Maddux said and Cox replies, "and that's what seperates the mediocre from the great".

Submitted by Hagsag on Fri, 12/05/2008 - 5:35pm.

Phil, have you heard any rumors as to the minor lge manager assignments for next season? I know there is an opening at Iowa at this time.

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HAGSAG: I haven't heard anything.

E-Man and all, Got my Season ticket renewal sheet. Cubs raised ticket prices again (Thanks Mr. Hendry!). They said they are going up 6% overall, but my tickets only went up 4.7%. Better than last year when they said ticket prices went up much less than they really did for season ticket holders (my ticket went up 20.5% last year). Go Cubs!

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In reply to by mannytrillo

Higher payrolls? Oh no! Yea... lets go back to crappy players and no playoffs. Good idea. Are you even a Cubs fan? Or do you just hang out around these parts in order to find information about season tickets in order to rip off Cubs fans?

we would definately need a shortstop i think we saw the fontenot experience last year i wish he could play there i am all for getting him more atbats. i also agree why would we trade for a backup catcher use marquis for something else

Cubs MLB Roster

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40 players are on the MLB RESERVE LIST (roster is full)    

Last updated 1-24-2023
 
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PITCHERS: 21
Adbert Alzolay
Javier Assad 
Brad Boxberger
Ben Brown
Jeremiah Estrada
Kyle Hendricks
Codi Heuer 
* Brandon Hughes
Ryan Jensen
Caleb Kilian 
Julian Merryweather
Ethan Roberts 
Michael Rucker
Adrian Sampson
* Drew Smyly
* Justin Steele 
Marcus Stroman
Jameson Taillon 
Keegan Thompson
Hayden Wesneski
Rowan Wick

CATCHERS: 3 
* Tucker Barnhart 
Miguel Amaya
Yan Gomes

INFIELDERS: 8
Nico Hoerner
* Eric Hosmer
Nick Madrigal
* Miles Mastrobuoni
* Zach McKinstry
Christopher Morel
Dansby Swanson
Patrick Wisdom

OUTFIELDERS: 8 
Kevin Alcantara
* Cody Bellinger 
Alexander Canario
Brennen Davis
# Ian Happ
Trey Mancini 
Seiya Suzuki 
Nelson Velazquez


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