The countdown is on for the start of spring training as pitchers and catchers will begin reporting to camps next week. Let's get caught up on transactions impacting the Chicago Cubs, their minor league system, and former Iowa Cubs players looking for opportunities in other organizations. Here is the latest installment:
CHICAGO CUBS NEWS
The Cubs avoided arbitration and signed one-year deals with three of their four eligible players: Jake Arrieta, Justin Grimm, and Hector Rondon. Figures were exchanged with Pedro Strop, but no agreement has been announced yet. Strop is one of 13 players around Major League Baseball waiting an arbitration hearing or settlement. IF Marwin Gonzalez (played for Iowa in 2011) is also awaiting a ruling with the Houston Astros.
On January 26, the Cubs signed LH Brett Anderson to a one-year deal. Anderson was limited to four appearances (three starts) with the Dodgers last year after off-season back surgery and a blister on his pitching hand after an August return. Anderson is 38-43 with a 3.86 ERA (294ER/685.2IP) in 127 major league games over eight seasons with the Oakland A's (2009-13), Colorado Rockies (2014) and Los Angeles (2015-16). He is expected to compete for the fifth starter's spot.
On February 1, the Cubs traded minor league right-hander James Farris to the Rockies for RH Eddie Butler. The teams also swapped international bonus signing slots in the deal. Farris was a relief prospect that reached double-A last year and posted 10 scoreless innings with two walks and 12 strikeouts in eight appearances in the Arizona Fall League this off-season. Butler is a former first-round pick (46th overall) for the Rockies in 2012 and entered the 2014 season ranked as the Rockies' second-best prospect by Baseball America. He has spent parts of three seasons in the big leagues with Colorado while battling shoulder injuries. Prior to the trade, the Rockies had designated Butler for assignment. With the acquisition, he joins Chicago's 40-man roster. He does have minor league options left.
To make room on the 40-man roster for Butler, the Cubs designated RH Dylan Floro for assignment. He had been claimed off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays on January 17. Floro cleared waivers and was outright to Iowa on February 3. Floro spent most of last season at triple-A Durham, going 1-2 with a 2.88 ERA (16ER/50.0IP) and seven saves in 32 appearances while earning mid-season All-Star honors in the International League. He made his big league debut with the Rays and was 0-1 with a 4.20 ERA (7ER/15.0IP) in 12 appearances.
The Cubs have also signed the following players to minor league contracts: C Carlos Corporan, 3B Chris Dominguez, OF Todd Glaesman, RH Jim Henderson, SS Munenori Kawasaki, RH Casey Kelley, and RH Williams Perez.
Corporan is a veteran of 14 professional seasons, including big league time with Milwaukee (2009), Houston (2011-14), and Texas (2015). He has played in the PCL with Nashville, Reno, Oklahoma City, Round Rock, and New Orleans. The 33-year-old switch-hitter holds a .249 career average with 54 home runs in 747 minor league games.
Dominguez is a slugging corner infielder that hit .241 (67-for-278) with 13 home runs in 77 games at triple-A Pawtucket last year. He originally came up in the San Francisco Giants organization and had two of his best seasons with Fresno in 2013 (.294/15HR/65RBI in 132G) and 2014 (.274/21HR/85RBI in 131G) before making his big league debut as a September call-up in 2014.
Glaesmann hit .274 (61-for-223) with 15 doubles, six home runs, and 31 RBI in 74 games for Reno in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization last year. His best pro season was in 2015 when he hit .286 (81-for-283) with 27 doubles and a career-high 14 home runs in 94 games for the Aces. Glaesmann started his pro career as a non-drafted free agent by the Rays in 2009 out of Stephen F. Austin University.
Henderson returns to the Cubs' organization after Chicago took him from the Nationals in the triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft in 2006. He had brief stops with double-A Tennessee and Iowa in 2007-08, but was limited to eight total games his second season due to a shoulder injury. He signed with Milwaukee in 2009 and made it to the big league with Brewers in 2012. He recorded 28 saves to set the Brewer rookie record in 2013, but was derailed by another shoulder surgery in 2014. He was 2-2 with a 4.11 ERA (16ER/35.0IP) in 44 games for the New York Mets last year and pitched nine games in the minor leagues after a stint on the disabled list with right biceps tendonitis in June.
Kawasaki returns to the Cubs after a successful 2016 season. He hit .255 (80-for-314) with a home run and 39 RBI in 102 games with Iowa while leading all PCL shortstops with a .982 fielding percentage. He also played in 14 games for Chicago and was inactive, but with the team throughout the entire run through the World Series. A report had Kawasaki turning down a hefty contract to return to his native Japan to re-sign with the Cubs. A favorite of fans and teammates, Kawasaki provides valuable depth for the organization.
Kelly was a first-round pick (30th overall) by Boston in 2008 when Theo Epstein was still in charge of the Red Sox. He was part of the package (along with former I-Cubs Anthony Rizzo and Eric Patterson) that the Red Sox sent to the Jed Hoyer-led San Diego Padres in order to acquire Adrian Gonzalez in December of 2010. Kelly made his major league debut for the Padres in 2012, but missed all of the 2013 season and most of the 2014 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on April 1, 2013. Kelly made it back to the Padres late in 2015, but was traded to the Braves on December 10 that year. Last season, he made 10 appearances (one start) for Atlanta and was 0-3 with a 5.82 ERA (14ER/21.2IP). He made 15 appearances (12 starts) for triple-A Gwinnett and was 3-6 with a 3.53 ERA (29ER/74.0IP).
Perez was released by the Braves on December 8 and became a free agent. Williams opened last season in Atlanta's rotation, but went on the disabled list in June with a rotator cuff strain in his pitching shoulder. He returned to make two starts in September and finished 2-3 with a 6.04 ERA (36ER/53.2IP) in 11 starts overall. He made his big league debut with the Braves in 2015 and was 7-6 with a 4.78 ERA (62ER/116.2IP) in 23 games, including 20 starts).
The Cubs announced the invitation of 24 non-roster players to spring training: RHPs Andury Acevedo, Maikel Cleto, Daniel Corcino, Farris, Seth Frankhoff, Henderson, Kelly, Jhondaniel Medina, Conor Mullee, Fernando Rodriguez, and Ryan Williams; LHPs Gerardo Concepcion, Manny Parra, and Zac Rosscup; INFs Dominguez, Ian Happ, Kawasaki, Jemile Weeks, and Chesny Young; OFs John Andreoli, Eloy Jimenez, and Mark Zagunis; and Cs Corporan and Taylor Davis.
MAJOR LEAGUE NEWS
The Padres signed RH Trevor Cahill (2015-16 with Iowa) to a one-year deal worth a reported $1.75 million. Cahill was an important member of Chicago's bullpen last year, going 4-4 with a 2.74 ERA (20ER/65.2IP) in 50 appearances, but would like the opportunity to start again. The Padres will give him a chance to earn a spot in their wide-open rotation.
The Los Angeles Angels signed INF Luis Valbuena (2012) to a two-year deal worth a reported $15 million. Valbuena hit 38 home runs over the past two seasons with Houston, but has struggled mightily against left-handed pitching making him more of a platoon player. The Angels need a left-handed bat to complement their right-handed hitters at third base, first base, and DH, so Valbuena should get plenty of at-bats. To make room for Valbuena on the 40-man roster, the Angles designated former I-Cub Blake Parker (2008-15) for assignment. It was the fifth time that Parker has been DFA'ed since August. This time he cleared waivers, was sent outright to Salt Lake, and given a non-roster invite to spring training.
The following former I-Cubs avoided arbitration and re-signed with their clubs on one-year deals: INF Darwin Barney (2009-11, '13 with Iowa) with the Toronto Blue Jays, RH Arodys Vizcaino (2014) with the Braves, INF Ryan Flaherty (2011) with the Baltimore Orioles, RH Zach Putnam (2013) with the Chicago White Sox, RH Adam Warren (2016) with the New York Yankees, C Robinson Chirinos (2010) with the Rangers.
MINOR LEAGUE NEWS
Former I-Cub Manny Ramirez (2014) was back in the news in January as he signed with the Kochi Fighting Dogs of the independent Shikoku Island League in Japan. After his 24 games with Iowa in 2014, Ramirez played in 2014 games for Aguilas in the Dominican Winter League, but hasn't appeared in competition since. Ramirez will be 45 years old on May 30.
The White Sox signed C Geovany Soto (2005-07, '12) to a minor league deal. Soto hit .269 (21-for-78) with four home runs in 26 games for the Angels last year. He played 78 games for the White Sox in 2015. The Sox also signed former I-Cub LHP Giovanni Soto (2016) this off-season. The "Gio to Geo" battery could be coming to a ballpark near you.
The Rangers signed RH Jaye Chapman (2012-13). Chapman split last season between triple-A Colorado Springs and double-A Biloxi in the Brewers organization and has racked up 34 saves in the Brewers minor league chain the last two years.
The Red Sox signed OF Brian Bogusevic (2013). Bogusevic spent last season with Orix in Japan and hit just .187 (32-for-193) in 60 games. He hit .296 with 12 homers in 118 games for triple-A Lehigh Valley in 2015 and .259 (15-for-58) in 22 games for the Phillies in 2015.
The Nationals signed LH Neal Cotts (2007-09). Cotts made three triple-A stops last year with Salt Lake (Angels), Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Yankees), and Round Rock (Texas) for a total of 31 appearances. He last pitched in the big leagues in 2015 with both Milwaukee and Minnesota.
The Cardinals signed LH Daniel Schlereth (2015). Schlereth made 15 appearances for double-A New Hampshire in the Blue Jays system last year before getting released on June 30. The former first-round pick will be with his fifth organization in the last five seasons.
The Mariners signed RH Jean Machi (2016). Machi was 2-1 with a 3.68 ERA (12ER/29.1IP) for Iowa last year before getting released halfway through the season. He signed with the Giants and was the closer for triple-A Sacramento to finish last year, earning 12 saves to go with a 2-2 record and a 3.62 ERA (13ER/32.1IP) in 28 games.
The Nationals signed RH Joe Nathan (2016) and invited him to spring training. At 41 years old, Nathan became the oldest pitcher in Iowa history when he joined the club in July. He made four appearances before going up to Chicago. The Cubs released Nathan after three appearances and he finished the year with the Giants. The former All-Star ranks eighth in baseball history with 377 career saves. He is second among active players behind Francisco Rodriguez, who ranks fourth all-time with 430.
The Phillies signed OF Chris Coghlan (2014, '16) and invited him to spring training. Coghlan was a valuable utility player for Chicago in 2014 & '15, but was traded to Oakland last February in exchange for RH Aaron Brooks. The Cubs re-acquired him in a trade for Arismendy Alcantara in June. With Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward, and Jon Jay as left-handed outfield bats for Chicago, Coghlan should get more opportunities to play with Philadelphia.
On the coaching side, Nate Spears (2008-09) becomes the next former I-Cub to start a new chapter in his baseball career. He has been named the hitting coach for short-season Lowell in the Red Sox organization. After leaving the Cubs, Spears went to the Red Sox and made his big league debut with Boston in 2011. He last played with Somerset in the independent Atlantic League in 2015.
Be sure to check back frequently to iowacubs.com for more updates on player movement this off-season as well as updates and previews for the upcoming season.