Cubs Sign Four More Free-Agents to Minor League Contracts, Invite 24 NRI

Baseball America is reporting that the Cubs have signed four more free-agents to 2017 minor league contracts.

Two of the players are former Cubs minor leaguers, and two have varying degrees of big league experience with other MLB clubs.

1. , RHP
2. , OF
3. , RHRP
4. , RHSP


Frank Batista is a long-time Cubs minor league pitcher, signing with the Cubs as a 19-year old out of the Dominican Republic in January 2009. Now 27, the 5'10 Batista has served as a RH "swing-man" in the upper minors (AA Tennessee & AAA Iowa) since 2012 (he also spent six weeks with Toros de Tijuana in the Mexican League in 2014). He missed the 2016 season after undergoing TJS in April (he also suffered a knee injury in Spring Training), so re-signing with the Cubs will allow him to continue his rehab at the Cubs UAPC at Riverview Park in Mesa, with a possible return to either Tennessee or Iowa later in the season.

An athletic "five-tool player," Todd Glaesmann was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 3rd round of the 2009 draft out of Midway HS in Waco, TX. A star QB and WR in HS, the 6'4 225 Glaesmann gave up the opportunity to play both baseball and football at Texas A&M (Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha were in the same A&M recruiting class), instead opting to sign with Tampa Bay ($930,000 "over-slot" signing bonus). Baseball America ranked Glaesmann as the #15 prospect in the Appalachian League in 2010, and one of the Rays Top 25 prospects three times 2010-12. BA also rated Glaesmann as having the best outfield arm in the Rays system 2010-11 and the best power-hitting prospect in the Rays system and the best defensive outfielder in the Midwest League in 2012. Although he is an outstanding OF defender, it became fairly obvious pretty early on that Glaeasman was a high-K/low average "free-swinger" (hitting 260/309/435 in 705 career minor league games through 2016), showing HR power (21 HR in 2012 and 19 HR in 2015) but not much else at the plate. He was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in December 2013 as the Player to Be Named Later in a five-player deal that sent RHRP Heath Bell from Arizona to Tampa Bay, only to suddenly retire two months later (ostensibly to play college football at Baylor), before returning to baseball again in mid-2014. Now 26, Glaesmann, has bounced back & forth between AA & AAA the past four seasons, and he will likely serve as the 4th OF either at AAA Iowa or at AA Tennessee in 2017.

Jim Henderson was selected by the Montreal Expos in the 26th round of the 2003 draft out of Tennessee Weslyan College. He was selected by the Cubs in the AAA Phase of the Rule 5 Draft in December 2006, and spent the next two seasons as a reliever at AA Tennessee and AAA Iowa. He had back problems throughout his Cubs stint and was released at the end of Minor League Camp in March 2009. He then signed a minor league contract with the Milwaukee Brewers, where he spent the next six seasons, finally making his MLB debut on July 26, 2012 at the age of 29, nine years after signing his first pro contract. Henderson had some decent seasons working out of the bullpen for the Brewers 2012-14 (he racked up 28 saves and 75 K in 50 IP as the Brewers closer in 2013) and then later as a middle-reliever for the New York Mets in 2016. In between he has had several shoulder and triceps injuries that have negatively-impacted his career. Now 34 years old, Henderson reportedly has opt-out clauses in his contract (3/29 and 6/1), but if the Cubs want to get around that they could just add him to their MLB 40-man roster prior to the opt-out date(s) and option him to the minors (he has three minor league options left, and while he has enough MLB Service Time to elect free-agency if outrighted, he does not yet have the five years of MLB Service Time required to refuse an optional assignment to the minors).

The son of 2B Pat Kelly (played in MLB 1991-99, mostly with the Yankees), Casey Kelly was a Louisville Slugger 1st team All-American, Florida 6-A Player of the Year, and Florida "Mr. Baseball" in 2008 (he was a "two-way player" in HS - SS/RHP). He was also an All-Regional HS QB at Sarasota HS (signed NLI with U. of Tennessee to play football & baseball). He was selected in the 1st round (#30 overall) of the 2008 draft as a shortstop by the Boston Red Sox (back when Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and Jason McLeod were in beantown) -- receiving a $3M "over-slot" signing bonus -- at which point he agreed to give-up football. He was ranked the Gulf Coast League #6 prospect (as a shortstop) by Baseball America in 2008 (he played only SS in his first year in pro ball, before switching back to RHP at Instructs post-2008). Kelly was ranked as the Red Sox #6 prospect (as a RHP) by Baseball America and was rated as having the Best Curveball in the Red Sox system by Baseball America after the 2008 season. He was a Futures Game All-Star in 2009, and was ranked the #2 prospect in the South Atlantic League, the #6 Carolina League Prospect, and the Red Sox #2 prospect by BA, and was named Red Sox Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2009, and was rated as having the Best Fastball, Best Curveball, Best Change-up, and Best Control in the Boston Red Sox system by Baseball America after the 2009 season. Baseball America ranked Kelly the #10 Prospect in the Eastern League and the Arizona Fall League #8 prospect in 2010, and then he was traded to the San Diego Padres with 1B Anthony Rizzo, OF Raymond Fuentes, and IF-OF Eric Patterson for 1B Adrian Gonzalez in December 2010 (by this time, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod had left the Red Sox and were running the Padres). Kelly was ranked as the Padres #1 prospect by Baseball America after the 2010 season, and the #7 Texas League prospect and the Padres #3 prospect after the 2011 season. The Padres selected Kelly's contract and added him to their MLB 40-man roster in August 2012 (6.21 ERA and 1.69 WHIP in 29 IP and six GS for SD in 2012). He was ranked the Padres #1 prospect by BA after the 2012 season, before having TJS in April 2013 and missing all of the 2013 season and most of the 2014 season (he had problems with his right elbow flexor in 2014 while rehabbing from the TJS, further delaying his return to the mound). Even so, he was still ranked as the Padres #5 prospect by Baseball America after the 2013 season and the Padres #17 prospect after the 2014 season. He finally returned to full action in 2015 but struggled at AA San Antonio before a brief (and ineffective) call-up to San Diego, and then he was traded to the Atlanta Braves for C Christian Bethancourt in December 2015. Kelly spent most of the 2016 season at AAA Gwinnett, but he did make ten appearances (one GS) with the Braves (5.82 ERA & 1.71 WHIP in 21.2 IP). He was sent outright to AAA Gwinnett last November, and was declared a minor league 6YFA after the World Series. Kelly will likely serve as a SP with AAA Iowa in 2017. He has one minor league option left, so if he is added to the MLB 40-man roster at some point it would not be a problem to send him back (and forth) to Iowa as necessary.



CUBS SPRING TRAINING NON-ROSTER INVITEES: 24

PITCHERS: 14
Andury Acevedo
Maikel Cleto
* Gerardo Concepcion
Daniel Corcino
James Farris
Seth Frankoff
Jim Henderson
Casey Kelly
Jhondaniel Medina
Conor Mullee
* Manny Parra
Fernando Rodriguez
* Zac Rosscup
Ryan Williams

CATCHERS: 2
# Carlos Corporan
Taylor Davis

INFIELDERS: 5
Chris Dominguez
# Ian Happ
* Munenori Kawasaki
# Jemile Weeks
Chesny Young

OUTFIELDERS: 3 
John Andreoli
Eloy Jimenez
Mark Zagunis

Comments

g.concepcion, m.parra, and z.rosscup minor league deals, too (with spring invites)

CRUNCH: Gerardo Concepcion, Zac Rosscup (March 2016 shoulder surgery), and Conor Mullee (carpal tunnel) were re-signed about ten days after they were non-tendered in December, and Manny Parra (April 2016 TJS) signed a 2017 Minor League successor contract after the World Series prior to being declared a minor league 6YFA.

thanks. i thought i remembered something about parra and concepcion, but didn't check on it. it just made the ticker at rotoworld earlier this afternoon.

By my count we're up to 22 guys for the Iowa pen, not including guys moving up from Tennessee. Gotta love the depth! Az Phil, who are some of the free agents who didn't get an NRI? Who would you count as most surprising guys to not receive an NRI?

DJL: Maybe Elliot Soto or Ali Solis not getting an NRI was a bit of a surprise (but not really, after the Cubs signed several more free-agents after they signed Soto and Solis), but two minor leaguers I thought almost certainly would get an NRI (but didn't) were RHRP Corey Black and OF-1B Bijan Rademacher. I am surprised that Black didn't get an NRI, but James Farris did. Also, keep in mind that the Cubs always invite a couple of younger minor league catchers to big league camp to get some experience catching bullpen sessions and "live" BP. (These moves usually happen right before pitchers & catchers report). I think P. J. Higgins would probably be one of them, because he's the next-best legit catching prospect in the system behind Victor Caratini.

A bit bummed Trevor Clifton didn't get one. However, 64 guys is about all that's needed, I guess. I hope he gets a start at some point, a la CJ Edwards a few years back.

Phil, I agree about Corey Black and Bjan Rademacher. Seems like they both earned an invite.

There are four reasons why a player would get an NRI to Spring Training: 1. A free-agent who signs a minor league contract and receives an NRI as part of the deal (like Kawasaki, Henderson, Rodriguez, Kelly, Weeks, et al). 2. A player in the organization who is projected as a potential call-up during the season (like Andreoli, Zagunis, R. Williams, Young, Happ, and Farris) 3. A stud prospect more than a year away from the big leagues who is brought to camp to learn the "big league way," get to know the guys, and work with MLB coaches so that they can become familiar with him (that would be Eloy Jimenez). 4. A catcher who can catch bullpen sessions and "live" BP during the first two weeks of camp in February prior to the start of MLB Cactus League games (Taylor Davis). Although about a half-dozen players and pitchers are brought up to the big league squad from Minor League Camp every day during March to play in MLB Cactus League games (different players every day), getting an NRI and having a chance to work with the coaches and giving the coaches and the manager a chance to get familiar with the player during the first two weeks of Spring Training (before the games start) is a plus for the player. That's why it is probably a bit disappointing for Corey Black and Bijan Rademacher that they did not receive an NRI, even though both will likely get a chance to play in an MLB Cactus League game or two.

Every year there are one or two NRI who compete seriously for a slot on the Cubs Opening Day MLB 25-man roster. I think the NRI who has the best chance to capture a slot on the 25 in 2017 is Jemile Weeks, an athletic, switch-hitting IF-OF with plus-speed, a good eye at the plate, defensive versatility, and previous MLB experience (3+011 MLB Service Time). The two players Weeks will be competing with are Matt Szczur and Tommy LaStella, and Weeks could provide better roster value and flexibility in a bench role than either Szczur or LaStella. (Munenori Kawasaki could make the 25-man roster if anything happens to Addison Russell or Javier Baez and Carlos Corporan would probably get the call to be the back-up catcher if anything happens to Willson Contreras or Miguel Montero, but Kawasaki and Corporan making the 25 would depend on injury, not by beating-out another player for the job). Szczur is out of minor league options, and that is a big consideration when putting together an Opening Day roster. Szczur has proven to be a good PH at the big league level and he hits RH pitching very well, he can play all three outfield positions, and he can PR (he has above-average speed and is a good baserunner, although he doesn't steal bases). Szczur would seem to have value as a late-inning defensive replacement for Kyle Schwarber in LF when the Cubs are protecting a lead. On the negative side, Szczur only plays outfield (he is not an infielder), and if both Albert Almora Jr and Jon Jay are on the 25, Szczur probably won't be needed as a late-inning defensive replacement for Schwarber (Ben Zobrist also could move to LF in the late innings). If Szczur does not make the Opening Day 25-man roster, the Cubs would be forced to either trade him or lose him off waivers. However, the Cubs will have both John Andreoli and Mark Zagunis at AAA Iowa in 2017, and either one of them could fill the Szczur role if that becomes a need later in the season. Szczur is a more-polished player, a better hitter, and a better outfielder with a stronger arm than Andreoli, but Andreoli takes more walks (but also strikes out a lot), has legit HR power, and is a better base-stealer, and given what is required from that roster slot, Andreoli is probably good enough to fill that role even if Szczur may be a better all-around baseball player. Zagunis will not likely be ready for The Show by the end of Spring Training, but he could be MLB-ready by mid-season. What he brings to the table is an outstanding eye at the plate (he is an OBP machine, with a career OBP of .401) and he is a good hitter, too (.288 hitter with 65 doubles in 273 minor league games), with the power to hit 10-12 HR per season. Unlike Szczur and Andreoli, Zagunis does not play CF (he is strictly a corner OF), but he would provide a legit "emergency" 3rd catcher on the roster, because while he's not very good at it (he is well below-average defensively in all phases), he was a catcher in college and in his first season in pro ball, and so he does know the position, and could fill-in behind he plate in a pinch in case Schwarber is unable to return to catcher in 2017. (In fact, if I were the Cubs, I would request Zagunis report to Mesa with the pitchers & catchers and get some reps behind the plate -- even just bullpen side-sessions and "live" BP -- not because he would be moved back to catcher, but just to get him back into "catching shape" in case he gets called-up later in the season). Tommy LaStella is strictly a bat-first 2B-3B. He doesn't play outfield and his infield defense at 2B and 3B is passably-adequate given his projected role on the team. While LaStella does not play OF, both Zobrist and Kris Bryant can move from the infield to the outfield if necessary, and then LaStella can play either 3B or 2B. So his versatility is based upon Zobrist's and Bryant's versatility. LaStella is an above-average hitter (the rare LH hitter who can hit LHP) who handles high-velocity fastballs very well, but he has not proven to be a good PH at the MLB level. He has (at best) average speed. Unlike Szczur, LaStella has minor league options left. He refused to report to AAA Iowa when he was optioned to the minors last August and the Cubs treated him very carefully and cut him slack at that time, but I doubt the Cubs would do that again. If he is optioned to the minors in 2017 and refuses to report, the Cubs will probably put LaStella on the Restricted List (in which case he would no longer get paid) and leave it up to him to make the next move (either report to Iowa or retire). So Jemile Weeks can play 2B (he is an above-average defensive 2B) as well as SS, 3B, CF, and LF, essentially combining (and somewhat exceeding) the defensive skill-set of Szczur and LaStella. Weeks is also a very good baserunner and base-stealer, perfect as a late-inning PR, and as a switch-hitter, he can PH from either side of the plate. Both Szczur and LaStella are probably better hitters than Weeks right now, although Weeks' best MLB season (when he hit 303/340/421 in 97 games in his rookie year with OAK in 2011) far exceeds anything Szczur or LaStella have done at the big league level. Weeks also takes a lot of walks and doesn't strike out much (most seasons he has had more BB than K). And if he is added to the MLB 40-man roster, Weeks will have one minor league option left, so he could be optioned to Iowa and exchanged for a different player (like LaStella, Kawasaki, Andreoli, or Zagunis) if it becomes desirable to tweak the 25-man roster later in the season. The main issue with Weeks going into Spring Training is that he missed the 2016 season with a torn hamstring, and he will have to prove that he is 100%, AND that he hasn't "lost a step" (and if he has, he isn't going to make it). Barring an injury to a position player or two during Spring Training, there should be just one bench slot open on the Cubs Opening Day 25-man roster, and it will likely be a battle between Szczur, LaStella, and Weeks for that job. Now, I am NOT saying that Weeks WILL beat out both Szczur and LaStella, only that of the 24 NRI at Cubs Spring Training, Weeks - IF 100% HEALTHY - would seem to have the best chance to crack the Opening Day 25-man roster, because Weeks could have more roster value as a bench guy than either Szczur or LaStella. In addition, I believe that if veteran RHRP Jim Henderson has no shoulder or triceps issues and pitches well in Spring Training but is unable to win a job in the Cubs Opening Day bullpen only because there is no room for him, that the Cubs will add Henderson to their MLB 40-man roster prior to his 3/29 opt-out date, and option him to AAA Iowa. (Henderson has three minor league option years left, and he has not accrued enough MLB Service Time to refuse an optional assignment to the minors).

AZ PHIL: Interesting thoughts. I was surprised and disappointed Szczur slumped the last 6 weeks of the season, and his PH success turned into k's during big moments. A great person, for sure, I hope he gets an opportunity somewhere, if not the Cubs. Similarily, LaStella stunk it up when he came back from his extended "pouting vacation" and he ain't much of a 3b making errors in limited time. He was lucky to have gotten a WS share, imo. I will be interested to see Weeks play. The Cubs have not had a speed player that could annoy the hell out of opposing pitchers and catchers since Kenny Lofton. That he has IF-OF flexibility and some plate discipline is for sure a plus. Thanks for your perspective.

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  • crunch 13 hours 12 min ago (view)

    j.girardi did a 2nd interview with PHI on Monday and he's supposedly the favorite for the job.

     

  • bradsbeard 18 hours 2 min ago (view)

    The draft over the ASB and the trade deadline pushed back until August 15th or so would make sense. Otherwise, I don't know how scouting departments are going to handle the draft lead up and the trade deadline running almost simultaneously.  

     

  • Arizona Phil 18 hours 18 min ago (view)

    One other thing about MLB player development that is very different from NFL, NBA, and NHL player development is that most MLB clubs have upwards of 300 minor league players under contract (not including players on their MLB 40-man roster, the Cubs presently have 301 minor leaguers under contract on nine minor league affiliates).

     

  • Arizona Phil 18 hours 19 min ago (view)

    JUST SAYIN: MLB is the only one of the four major North American professional sports that holds its draft and signs its draft picks during the season.

     

  • crunch 1 day 2 hours ago (view)

    umpire eric cooper has died...complications from knee surgery (blood clot)...52 years old

     

  • crunch 1 day 14 hours ago (view)

    "MLB Network's Jon Heyman reports former player David Ross and Astros bench coach Joe Espada "appear to be the frontrunners" for the Cubs' managerial opening."

    espada's had 2 interviews.  for a guy who's actively at his "other job," having a 2nd interview seems like both sides want to make this work.  SF and PIT are also supposedly interested in espada.

     

  • JustSayin' 1 day 15 hours ago (view)

     That's a fair description of the benefits of the plan but If I have to choose between "better way" and "owners' greed," I pick the latter.  MLB wants better MiLB facilities, on average, without paying a cent.  They want to deal with the social and legal pressure they are getting for not even paying minor league players minimum wage per real hour worked by having less players.  In addition, the draft is to be moved to late August, so every draftee would lose compensation for the stub year in which they are drafted.  For this reason, I'm not sure your point about col

     

  • Hagsag 1 day 16 hours ago (view)

    Thanks Mr. Phil.

     

  • Arizona Phil 1 day 17 hours ago (view)

    HAGSAG: Besides reducing the costs that are associated with operating a minor league club, reducing the number of minor league affiliates would allow MLB organizations to increase the salaries of their remainng minor league players (who would be the organization's most-legit prospects) without having to increase the organization's aggregate minor league payroll. 

     

  • crunch 1 day 17 hours ago (view)

    The discussions on this matter have been quite varried.  There seems to be a lot of pressure connected to this on minor league team owners who haven't upgraded their facilities/park in a while or who lag in quality compared to their competitors.

    It seems like this would not only cause some teams to fold, but some radical redistribution of existing teams/cities into new minor league levels rather than just pruning some teams over others.

     

  • Hagsag 2 days 5 hours ago (view)

    AZ Phil, what are your thoughts on the discussion to eliminate 42 low minor league teams in 2021? What would this do to the Dominican League? Thanks.

     

  • crunch 2 days 11 hours ago (view)

    yanks/astros game 6 was a f'n classic.  wow.

    altuve continues to build his astros legend.

     

  • bradsbeard 3 days 2 hours ago (view)

    Thanks for this. I agree they’ll probably take their chances in the Rule 5 if he will resign, though I really wouldn’t mind adding him back to the 40 man. I feel like he has a good chance to be effective out of the bullpen. 

     

  • bradsbeard 3 days 2 hours ago (view)

    I hope Sagara doesn’t end up leaving because of the shakeup. The Athletic did report that his position might be eliminated but that he should be offered another role in the organization somewhere. All I know is Sagara’s name came up frequently in connection with the pitch lab, and he was credited for improvements with Ryan, Wick, and Wieck. Maybe he’ll end up focusing more specifically in that role helping guys tweak things in the lab. 

     

  • JustSayin' 3 days 14 hours ago (view)

    Does anyone have insight into the new management hires and musical chairs the Cubs announced yesterday?  Craig Breslow might be the only guy out there with extensive MLB experience AND the grey matter to challenge any quant not making sense. His role intrigues me but are they going to give him real responsibility to clear out the deadwood (including the existing minor league coordinator who was never good enough to be the pitchers he's coaching?)  Or, is this a superficial change aimed at keeping ownership off Theo's back? 

     

  • Arizona Phil 3 days 15 hours ago (view)

    BRADSBEARD: I think the Cubs want to retain Oscar de la Cruz post-2019, just not on the MLB 40-man roster.