Chicago - Des Moines Shuttle Not Always a Smooth Ride

Although it is not yet official, the Cubs have reportedly signed veteran RHRP Junichi Tazawa to a minor league contract. Because he was a post-2018 Article XX-B MLB free-agent, the 32-year old Tazawa will get a $100,000 retention bonus if he is not released at least five days prior to 2019 MLB Opening Day and added to an MLB 40-man roster by Opening Day, and he gets an automatic opt-out if he is not added to the Cubs MLB 40-man roster by June 1st. And because he has Article XIX-A rights, if he were to be added to the MLB 25-man roster (and MLB 40-man roster) at some point in 2019, the Cubs would not be able to send him back to the minors without his pemission even if Outright Assignment Waivers are secured. (If he does not give his permission and the Cubs want to remove him from the 25-man roster, they could only release him or trade him, and if he is released, the Cubs would be on the hook for 100% of his salary as termination pay).     

In addition to signing Tazawa, the Cubs have also reportedly signed veteran RHRP George Kontos to a minor league contract (also not yet official). Because he has accrued at least five years of MLB Service Time, Kontos (like Tazawa) has Article XIX-A rights and thus cannot be sent to the minors without his permission. (FWIW, both Tazawa and Kontos are out of minor league options, but even if they did have options available they could not be optioned to the minors without their permission). So if Kontos is added to the Cubs MLB 25-man Active List roster at some point in 2019 and then the Cubs subsequently decide they are not able to keep him on the 25, they would not be able to outright him back to the minors without his permission. And if he does not give his permission, the Cubs could only trade him or release him, and if he were to be added to the 25-man roster (and 40-man roster) and then is is subsequently released, the Cubs would be on the hook for 100% of his remaining salary as termination pay. 

So players who have accrued at least five years of MLB Service Time (like Tazawa and Kontos) have Article XIX-A rights that make it a bit complicated to remove them from the 25-man roster (and 40-man roster) once the player is added. Assuming a player will cheerfully ride the "Chicago - Des Moines Shuttle" is a lot to expect of an Article XIX-A player, in that the player cannot be sent to the minors (by Optional or Outright Assignment) without his permission, and he gets 100% of his salary as termination pay if he is released. 

And further, a player who has accrued at least six years of MLB Service Time and who signs a minor league contract after being declared an Article XX-B  free-agent (like Tazawa) gets even more perks ($100K retention bonus if not released at least five days prior to MLB Opening Day and added to the MLB 40-man roster by Opening Day, and an automatic 6/1 opt-out if not added to the MLB 40-man roster by June 1st) that make retaining the player even beyond the conclusion of Spring Training somewhat problematic. 

A player who has not yet accrued five years of MLB Service Time but who has accrued at least three years of MLB Service Time (or who qualifies as a "Super Two" player for salary arbitration) and/or who has been outrighted to the minors previously in his career has Article XX-D rights, which are different than Article XIX-A rights. Unlike a player with Article XIX-A rights, a player with Article XX-D rights does - NOT - have to give his permission before he can be sent to the minors, but he does have the right to elect free-agency immediately (or defer free-agency until after the conclusion of the MLB regular season for players who did not qualify as an Article XX-D player only by virtue of being a "Super Two" player) if he is sent outright to the minors (but if he is outrighted to the minors and elects free-agency immediately he forfeits the balance of his salary, and if he is sent outright to the minors and defers free-agency until after the conclusion of the MLB regular season but then is added back to an MLB 40-man roster prior to the conclusion of the MLB regular season, he cannot file for free-agency under Article XX-D). 

While Tazawa is the only free-agent with Article XX-B rights who was signed by the Cubs to a 2019 minor league contract and Tazawa and Kontos are the only two free-agents signed by the Cubs to 2019 minor league contracts who have Article XIX-A status, the Cubs have signed eight free-agents with Article XX-D status to 2019 minor league contracts, including C Francisco Arcia, INF Cristhian Adames, OF-1B Jim Adduci, RHSP Christian Bergman, INF Phillip Evans, RHRP Carlos Ramirez, RHRP Rob Scahill, and LHRP Mike Zagurski. Besides having the right to elect free-agency if outrighted, Adames, Bergman, Scahill, and Zagurski are also out of minor league options, so it will be even more-complicated to remove those four from the 25-man roster (and place them on the "Chicago - Des Moines Shuttle") if one or more of them are called-up at some point in 2019. (While Arcia, Adduci, Evans, and Ramirez have Article XX-D status so that they would have the right to elect free-agency if outrighted off the 40, each of them do have at least one minor league option left, so they can be optioned to the minors if the Cubs want to add one of them to the 25 only temporarily without the risk of having the player claimed off Outright Assignment Waivers or having the player elect free-agency if outrighted, or in the case of Tazawa and Kontos, putting the Cubs in the position of having to release the player just to get him off the 25-man roster).  

They weren't signed as free-agents, but Cubs minor leaguers OF Wynton Bernard, OF Johnny Field, OF Jacob Hannemann, LHRP Jerry Vasto, and LHRP Rob Zastryzny have Article XX-D rights (all five have been outrighted to the minors previously in their careers), so if added to the 40 at some point in 2019 they could get claimed off waivers or could elect free-agency if outrighted back to minors (all five do have at least one minor league option available, however), and while they do not have Article XX-D status and thus cannot elect free-agency if outrighted, both RHRP Allen Webster and LHRP Danny Hultzen are out of minor league options and thus (unlike Arcia, Adduci, Bernard, Evans, Field, Hannemann, Ramirez, Vasto, and Zastryzny) could not be optioned back to the minors should either of them be added to the 40 at some point in 2019.   

Bottom line is, it's not always easy and smooth to add a minor league player to the 25-man roster (and 40-man roster), especially if it's expected to be just a temporary move. The "Chicago- Des Moines Shuttle" is really designed for players who can be recalled from AAA and then optioned back without hassle, and so for Tazawa and Kontos (in particular), it would probably be just a one-way trip if one or both were to get called-up to Chicago in 2019.  


2 weeks before ST...

harper, machado, keuchel, kimbrel, moosetacos, m.gonzalez still FAs.

i still don't understand why kimbrel turned down his QO...time will tell...

Moustakas opting out was the strange move. 

Never heard of new Cubs reliever Tony Barnette until this afternoon. Rangers-Cubs pipeline still in business. 

Former cub Jason Hammel to Rangers on minor league deal.  There is a Des Moines shuttle and a DFW express. 

And a genuine truely out of nowhere signing as well: 37 year old, former 2002 Cubs first round pick Luke Hagerty back with the Cubs and reportesly dialing it up to 99 mph in bullpen sessions. Jeff Passan ESPN article link here

Wow neat

Great story.

Thanks Arizona Phil for the link - have you seen Hagerty work out this off season?

ERIC S: I haven't seen Hagerty yet. 

Unlike many of the veteran relief pitchers on the Cubs MLB 40-man roster, Tony Barnette has minor league options left (all three) - AND - he has accrued only 3+000 MLB Service Time, so he cannot decline an Optional Assignment to the minors should there be a roster crunch at the end of Spring Training.  

He also cannot decline an Outright Assignment, although he would be able to elect free-agency if he were to be outrighted.

So look for Barnette to be optioned to the minors (and - NOT - outrighted) if he does not make the Cubs Opening Day MLB 25-man roster. 

Otherwise, Morrow, Strop, Cishek, Brach, Kintzler, and Duensing cannot be sent to the minors without their consent. 

BTW, Barnette missed the last three months of the 2018 season with a lat strain, but he threw the ball very well in a private tryout with the Cubs in the Sloan Park bullpen in Mesa on Monday, and was subsequently offered a two-year contract by the Cubs (club option for 2020).

Further on Tony Barnette:

Because he spent six seasons in a foreign major league (NPB), Barnette may have a "no trade" clause (full or partial) and/or "no minor league assignment" clause (optional and/or outright assignment) in his contract (TBD). He also could have a contractual right to elect free-agency when his contract expires even though he will have less than six years of MLB Service Time when the contract expires (again, TBD).  

None of these rights would be automatic. They would have to be specified in the contract. 

Hopefully the exact details of the contract will be revealed in the coming days. 

Further on Kendall Graveman: 

Even though he did not spend any time in a foreign major league, Graveman supposedly has a special contractual clause where he can request his release (or be non-tendered) post-2019 if the Cubs decline their $3M club option for 2020. It is unclear if that contractual clause would apply if Graveman's 2020 club option is exercised and the contract expires after the 2020 season. (Ordinarily he would be eligible for salary arbitration post-2019 if the 2020 club option is declined or post-2020 if the club option is exercised, and he would be eligible to be an MLB Article XX-B free-agent for the first time no earlier than post-2021). 

In either case (2020 club option is declined or 2020 club option is exercised and contract expires post-2020), he would be short of the six seasons of MLB Service Time necessary to qualify for free-agency as an Article XX-B player both post-2019 and post-2020, so the right to request his release and become a free-agent post-2019 (or post-2020?) would have to be a special provision of the contract. 

BTW, Graveman's 2019 salary is $575K (the MLB minimum salary), but it jumps to $2M if he spends at least one day on the MLB Active Roster in 2019. Graveman had TJS in July 2018, so it's possible that he could complete his rehab and be reinstated from the DL in September. 

Note that players who are rehabbing from Tommy John Surgery (but - ONLY - from TJS) can have their minor league rehab assignment extended by as much as 30 days (in the form of three ten-day extensions), so Graveman conceivably could spend as much as 60 days on a minor league rehab in 2019. 

Also, Graveman can be placed on the MLB 60-day DL as early as February 12th (the date Cubs pitchers & catchers report to Spring Training), should his slot on the 40 be needed for another player. 

Updated Barnette and Graveman contract details... 

Tony Barnette: $750K base salary in 2019 escalates to $1M (pro-rated) as soon as he spends one day on MLB Active List, with $75K roster bonus if 100 days spent on MLB Active List, $75K roster bonus if 125 days spent on MLB Active List, and $100K roster bonus if at least 155 days spent on MLB Active List in 2019, and $3M club option in 2020, with performance bonuses in both 2019 and 2020 that pay $50K if 40 games, $50K if 50 games, $75K if 60 games, and $75K if 70 games, and player option to elect free-agency as a vested international player when contract expires (either post-2019 if 2020 club option is declined or post-2020 if 2020 club option is exercised). 
NOTE: Still unknown if he has a "no minor league assignment" clause in his contract. 

Kendall Graveman: $575K base salary in 2019 escalates to $2M (pro-rated) if reinstated from DL prior to conclusion of MLB regular season, and $3M club option in 2020, with performance bonuses that pay $100K each for 15, 18, 21, 23, and 25 GS, and player option to request release if 2020 club option is declined. 
NOTE: Still unknown if he has a "no minor league assignment" clause in his contract.

So if all of the roster bonuses and performance bonuses are met, Barnette could make as much as $1.5M in 2019 and $3.25M in 2020, and Graveman could make as much as $3.5M in 2020.   

And because of the extensive roster bonuses and performance bonuses in place for both pitchers (especially Barnette), it would seem likely that both would have a "no minor league assignment" clause in their contracts, as a safeguard against the club optioning the player to the minors to avoid paying potential roster and performance bonuses. If so, this would make it much more likely that Barnette would be released prior to Opening Day if it becomes apparent that there is not room for him in the 2019 Cubs bullpen, because the Cubs would only be on the hook for the 2019 guaranteed money ($750K - offset by a pro-rated portion of the MLB minimum salary of $575K if he subsequenmtly signs with another club after being released) and none of the potential 2019 roster bonuses or 2019-20 performance bonuses or 2020 salary. 

So even if Brandon Morrow is out until May or even June, it could potentially come down to Barnette v. Duensing for the last slot in the pen in Spring Training (presuming Strop, Cishek, Edwards, Montgomery, Brach, Kintzler, and Chatwood have the other seven slots locked-up). 

RHRP Brad Brach signing still not official, even though it was reported in the media eight or nine days ago.

Sometimes there is a delay in completing the physical, either because of a player's illness or weather or travel issues, but there is clearly a slot left open on the 40 for Brach.

So I would think the contract will probably be be filed with MLB early next week (presuming the physical and medicals are clean). 

Sounds like the polar vortex held up Hagerty’s physical, so it might be holding up Brach’s as well? I also wonder if they are waiting until the last moment to add Brach, so if they have to make another addition they can delay adding that player until 2/12 when they can put Graveman on the DL. 

BRADSBEARD: The delay in the Cubs filing the Brach contract with MLB is most-likely a matter of the physical being delayed by the weather or Brach could have had a bad case of the flu or something like that, but it is also conceivable that he has taken the physical, some pre-existing issue was discovered, and so now the Cubs are attempting to rework the deal. That does happen sometimes. It's not official until the contract is filed with MLB. 

Also, keep in mind that a club has twenty days to file a signed contract with the MLB office, so the Cubs could have signed Brach a week ago but have not yet filed the contract with MLB in order to keep a slot open on the 40 for a waiver claim or maybe a two-for-one trade. So they really don't have to wait until 2/12 to place Graveman on the 60-day DL to keep a slot open on the 40, because they can wait up to twenty days to actually file the Brach contract with MLB. Clubs usually don't wait that long, but it is an option, if necessary, especially when it gets close to the Spring Training reporting date for pitchers & catchers (when the 60-day DL will come into play). 

The thing is, the Cubs didn't wait twenty days to file Barnette's contract with MLB (and outright Clarkin), so I kind of doubt that the Cubs are trying to keep Brach's slot open until they can place Graveman on the 60-day DL on the off-chance they might want to make a waiver claim sometime in the next ten days. It's more likely that Brach's physical was simply delayed, probably because of the weather or an illness. 

I would think the Cubs would announce their minor league invitees to ST soon.

Most likely Cubs ST NRI:

PITCHERS: Christian Bergman, Matt Carasiti, Ian Clarkin, George Kontos, Dakota Mekkes, Carlos Ramirez, Colin Rea, Rob Scahill, Junichi Tazawa, Jerry Vasto, Allen Webster, Mike Zagurski, and Rob Zastryzny   

CATCHERS: Miguel Amaya, Francisco Arcia, P. J. Higgins, Jhonny Pereda, and Ian Rice 

INFIELDERS: Cristhian Adames, Jim Adduci, Ryan Court, Trent Giambrone, Nico Hoerner, and Philip Evans 

OUTFIELDERS: Zach Borenstein, Jose Cardona, Johnny Field, Jacob Hannemann, and Evan Marzilli

Wow, that is a full roster of non-roster invites and a few extra.

HAGSAG: The Cubs typically have 36 pitchers, six catchers, twelve infielders, and ten outfielders (64 players total) in MLB camp, which means about 24 NRI. I have listed 29 NRI (which would mean there would be 39 pitchers and eight catchers in MLB Camp), but the Cubs signed an inordinate number of "4-A" (MLB/AAA borderline) guys this off-season, and so I could see a larger contingent of NRI than is typical.  

It will take a bunch of catchers to allow pitchers to get their throwing in.

Phil’s got a glove in the trunk of the car.  it’ll be all good.

Arizona Phil, with all the complications involved in rostering some of these veteran arms, does a guy like Mekkes have a better or worse shot at getting called up because he has options (assuming he continues pitching well)?

erich081: Dakota Mekkes is in a similar position as James Norwood this time last year, meaning he is Rule 5 Draft eligible after the season so adding him to the 40 could happen at any time, especially if the Cubs need a bullpen arm and Mekkes is pitching well at AAA Iowa.  

That said, the Cubs really need to determine during Spring Training which of their veteran NRI pen arms (Tazawa, Kontos, Scahill, Zagurski, Webster, Carasiti, and Ramirez) they want to stash at AAA (or at Extended Spring Training) and which ones they should cut-loose. I suppose it's possible that one or more could conceivably make the Cubs Opening Day 25-man roster, but it's - FAR - more likely that the Cubs Opening Day starting rotation and bullpen will come 100% from pitchers who are already on the MLB 40-man roster. 

In fact, as things stand right now, it would appear to be a battle between Barnette, Cedeno, and Duensing just for the last slot in the bullpen, and that's with Brandon Morrow starting the season on the Injured List. Obviously that would change if one of more of the "locks" (besides Graveman and Morrow) starts the season on the Injured List, but it wouldn't cost the Cubs much to release Barnette and/or Cedeno (in particular) prior to Opening Day ($750K for Barnette and $225K for Cedeno), and Duensing would cost the Cubs $3.5M if he were to be released. Also, Cedeno has no minor league options left (plus he has Article XIX-A status so he can't be outrighted to the minors without their permission), and Barnette probably has Article XIX-A contractual rights as well (TBD) because of his six years of NPB service time. 

Strop, Cishek, Brach, Edwards, and Montgomery (presuming he isn't needed in the starting rotation) are virtual locks to be in the bullpen on Opening Day (of the five, only Edwards can be optioned to the minors), and Kintzler and Chatwood have Article XIX-A status so neither can be sent to the minors without the pitcher's permission and I can't see the Cubs releasing Kintzler ($5M guaranteed salary in 2019) or especially Chatwood (guaranteed $25.5M combined 2019-20) and eating their salaries unless they just totally blow-up in Spring Training.  

Of course the challenge for the Cubs brain-trust would be if at least two from amongst Barnette, Cedeno, and Duensing, and/or one or more of the NRI guys clearly (and I mean clearly) out-pitch Kintzler, Chatwood. or even Edwards in Cactus League games. Do the Cubs use performances in Spring Training games to determine who is on the Opening Day 25-man roster (especially in the bullpen), or do they basically just disregard Spring Training game performances and wait to see how Kintzler and Chatwood (and Edwards, too) pitch in April before making changes? 

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  • JustSayin' 1 day 2 hours ago (view)

     I hear you but welcome to the world of Theo.  The team is always a step or two away from the World Series in his mind, whether that is true or not.  Therefore, the thing to do on the margin is to trade top prospects or younger guys on the roster for that missing puzzle piece, not build for the future.  I had a front-row seat for this as a Red Sox fan.  If Pedro Martinez doesn't insist the Red Sox sign David Ortiz for table scraps and Chris Bryant isn't the no-brainer second pick in the draft, we'd all be wondering what happened to that Theo guy who was in the Red S


  • Cubster 1 day 3 hours ago (view)

    Shogo Akiyama is a lefty bat, career BA at.301 w/ Seibu Lions.  Recent OBPs: .419, .385, .398, .403 and .392. HR 20-15 in last 3 seasons Stolen bases, 12 in 2019, 18 in best season (2016). Defense supposedly plus-plus, 7-10 assists (10 in 2016). Clearly a leadoff hitter.


  • crunch 1 day 19 hours ago (view)

    christian yelich committed internet homicide on yu darvish...


  • Charlie 1 day 23 hours ago (view)

    Little in the offseason could make me happier than the Cubs finding ways to retain the good MLB players who came up with them while remaining competitive. This Javy extension talk makes me much happier as a fan than the Bryant and Contreras trade talk.


  • crunch 2 days 14 min ago (view)

    "Javy Baez. The two-time All-Star shortstop and 2018 MVP runner-up already has begun negotiations on a potential long-term extension with the Cubs, according to sources."

    also, some talk of being linked to shogo akiyama (CF, Japan, 32yo in April)


  • crunch 2 days 20 hours ago (view)

    j.odorizzi accepted his qualifying offer (17.8m) from did j.abreu (CWS)....everyone else is gonna play the FA market.

    w.smith (SF) immediately signed with the braves for 3/39 (13m team option/1m buyout on the backend).  braves lose a 2nd round pick...which they'll probably get back when someone signs j.donaldson.


  • crunch 3 days 20 hours ago (view)


    it's not like i think he's something special, but if he had 5mph more on his stuff he'd probably be a top prospect in the system combined with his command/control.  he's got highly repeatable junk and he's still young enough there might be a little more velocity to discover.


  • Arizona Phil 3 days 23 hours ago (view)

    CRUNCH: As long as Carrera is placed on the AAA Iowa reserve list on 11/20 he should be safe from selection, and I would say he is in fact close to a lock to be placed on the Iowa roster.

    Presuming he is on the Iowa reserve list going into the Rule 5 Draft, I doubt very much that he would get selected in the Major League Phase because he hasn't pitched above Lo-A. 


  • crunch 3 days 23 hours ago (view)

    nice info...

    i'm low-key keeping an eye on faustino carrera if he's not protected...which he may not be protected.

    he throws junk, but he throws it well, and with great control.


  • Arizona Phil 4 days 17 min ago (view)

    I've talked to Player Development people over the past many years about the Rule 5 Draft and how an organization goes about deciding whether to protect or not protect a player from selection. 

    STEP 1: How many of your Rule 5 Draft-eligible players are actually legit candidates to get selected in the Major League Phase?. Usually there a dozen or more who could conceivably/realisticaly get selected. You need to identify them and then carefully evaluate them. 
    EXAMPLES: See my lists above. 


  • crunch 4 days 2 hours ago (view)

    "There are no untouchables," Epstein said.

    In truth, the Cubs boss has said the same every year, but it certainly sounds like he means it this time. "We're in the 'information collecting' stages of the process," one general manager put it on Tuesday.


  • Dolorous Jon Lester 5 days 5 hours ago (view)

    I think, in relation to the higher profile guys like Javy or Contreras, they're trying to put some pressure on to sign extensions.

    That said I do think they're listening on everyone with the only name I haven't seen being Rizzo.


  • crunch 5 days 21 hours ago (view)

    i wonder where the cubs will go with things.

    there's a lot pointing to the cubs being expected to listen to offers on almost anyone.  as it is, on paper, the cubs could roll right into 2020 with no changes whatsoever and still field a very competitive team.  the whole "shakeup" thing seems to be a very hot topic from a variety of sources, though.

    bryant, contreras, schwarber have all been linked to "cubs may be listening" rumors...probably listening to anything on happ, bote, almora, russell, too...


  • Hagsag 5 days 22 hours ago (view)

    Even the Cubs should be able to out bid the Marlins!


  • crunch 5 days 22 hours ago (view)

    "According to Joe Frisaro of, the Marlins are "believed" to have interest in free agent outfielder Nicholas Castellanos."

    by interest, i assume they mean they'd like to have some baseball rookie cards or his or maybe a hug from him.  i can't imagine they actually want to spend money on someone they could use to make their team better because that makes no sense.


  • Arizona Phil 6 days 14 hours ago (view)

    Prior to joining the Cubs in 2012 Scott Harris was Director of Baseball Operations in the MLB office, which means he received, reviewed, and approved all major league and minor league contracts and transactions, as well as providing MLB clubs with schedules, rules updates, and draft information.