The Cubs keep inking pitchers to minor league deals and handing out spring invites. Earlier this week, they included left-hander Manny Parra to a long list of off-season acquisitions.
With newcomers John Lackey, Adam Warren, Andury Acevedo, Rex Brothers, C.J. Riefenhauser, and Spencer Patton already on the 40-man roster, the Cubs have also bolstered their upper level minor league pitching depth.
As is the case every off-season, front offices around the league replenish their minor league pitching staffs, replacing free agents and those released. Case in point—six different starters threw over 80 innings last season in Iowa—only Dallas Beeler remains in the organization. Cubs also needed to strengthen their organizational depth from the left-side of the mound, especially with Zac Rosscup going on the 60-day disabled list.
Let’s face it, you kinda really hope none of these guys are needed in Chicago this year but there’s a good chance a few off this list will make their way to Wrigley—unless the Cubs’ bullpen stays amazingly healthy. Its also not out of realm of possibility that former big leaguers Brandon Gomes, Jean Machi, Manny Parra or Stephen Fife return close to their former selves and become an asset to the Cubs organization.
While some arms may not see Wrigley and spend the summer in Des Moines, many will be throwing to catching prospect Willson Contreras and be instrumental in developing the young backstop. Their experience will also rub off on the younger arms coming through the system.
Here’s your scorecard for the new faces added to minor league deals:
Spring Training Invites
Manny Parra—A former starter for the Brewers, the 33-year-old has battled injuries since 2011 when he experienced back issues in spring training and then had elbow surgery to replace a screw. He worked out of the bullpen in 2012 in Milwaukee (62 G, 58.2 IP, 5.06 ERA, 1.65 WHIP) and has spent the past three years in Cincinnati’s pen. The California native landed on the disabled list three times last year, appearing in 40 games while logging 32.1 innings. The lefty throws a four-seam fastball in the low to mid 90s and a slider in the low 80s.
Aaron Crow—A former All-Star his rookie year with the Royals in 2011, the 29-year-old was traded to the Marlins after the 2014 season and missed all of last year after Tommy John surgery. A free agent after the 2015 season, the former first-round pick is a low-risk, high-reward deal for the Cubs, especially if he can return to the form he showed in his three seasons with the Royals. Before the surgery, he showed decent command of a sinker in the low 90s and mixed in a fastball and slider. He’s already throwing bullpen sessions at spring training so he should be ready for opening day, either Iowa or Wrigley.
Stephen Fife— A former third-round pick of Boston in 2008, the 29-year-old right-hander was dealt to the Dodgers and made his MLB debut in 2012. The Idaho native made 10 starts in 2013 and logged 58.1 innings with a 3.86 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP but only appeared in one game the following year and had UCL surgery in July. Fife missed all of 2015 recovering from surgery and returned to the mound in the Venezuelan Winter League, making 13 starts and tossing 69.2 frames with a 2.84 ERA for Zulia.
Brandon Gomes— The 31-year-old is re-united with manager Joe Maddon after spending his entire five-year MLB career in Tampa. The right-hander tossed a career-high 59 innings last season for the Rays, posting a 4.27 ERA with 15 BB and 44 K in 63 relief appearances. Armed with a fastball in the low 90s and a slider in the low 80s, the former 17th round draft pick of the Padres bounced between the minors and Tampa the previous four seasons.
Jack Leathersich—With pitching spots on the Mets roster at a premium and Tommy John surgery in late July, Leathersich became expendable and the Cubs claimed the left-hander on waivers Nov. 19. The North Siders didn’t tender a contract offer to Leathersich, he elected for free agency, and the Cubs brought the 25-year-old back on a minor league deal. The Mets fifth-round pick in 2011 out of University of Massachusetts-Lowell spent his entire minor league career working out of the bullpen and made his debut for New York last year, appearing in 17 games with 2.31 ERA in 11.2 innings. He fanned 14 but walked seven in his debut season. Primarily a fastball pitcher (low 90s) he also throws a change-up and a slow curve. In five minor league seasons, the Massachusetts native logged 201.2 innings with 356 K and a .211 BAA.
Jean Machi—A mainstay in the Giants bullpen for the 2013 (51 G, 53 IP, 51 K, 12 BB, 2.38 ERA) and 2014 (71 G, 66.1 IP, 51 K, 18 BB, 2.58 ERA) seasons, the 33-year-old struggled last year and was released by the Giants and claimed off waivers by Boston, having success in neither place. Machi features a fastball in low to mid-90s topping out at 95, and splitter in high 80s. Signed by Phillies in 2002, the right-hander spent time 10 years in minors with Rays, Blue Jays, Pirates, and Giants before making MLB debut in 2012 with San Francisco.
Edgar Olmos—The Cubs were able to claim Olmos off waivers from the Orioles in late December and pass him through the waiver wire when they claimed C.J. Riefenhauser before the start of training camp. Olmos is one of several lefties in camp this spring vying for a spot on the roster or at the very least, position themselves for a call-up from Iowa. A third-round pick out of high school by the Marlins, Olmos never had impressive minor league numbers and went 4-17 with a 6.63 ERA for Jupiter in the Florida State League in 2011 in 28 starts. After not pitching any higher than AA and moving to the bullpen, Olmos made his MLB debut in 2013 for Miami, making five relief appearances. He spent 2014 back in the minors and was with the Mariners last year after being claimed off waivers. He spent a majority of the season in AAA Tacoma, with 34 K in 33 IP. He sports a fastball in the mid-90s and may end up in Wrigley by the end of the season.
Jonathan Pettibone —The 6-foot-6 right-hander started 18 games for Phillies in 2013 and missed most of 2014 and all of ’15 after a pair of surgeries on his right shoulder. Ranked as the one of the Phillies top pitching prospects after being selected in the third round in 2008, Pettibone earned all-star honors at Clearwater in the Florida State League in 2011 (10-11, 2.96 ERA, 61 IP, 1.14 WHIP) and reached AAA the following season. After starting the year in the minors in 2013, Pettibone made his big league debut in late April, tossing 100 innings before experiencing shoulder problems. Pettibone wasn’t afraid of contact, coaxing ground balls with a four-seam fastball in the low- to mid-90s with a sinker, cutter, slider and change-up as secondary pitches.
Drew Rucinski—The former Ohio Sate Buckeye made his way from a non-drafted free agent in the Indians organization in 2011 to his big league debut in 2014 for the Angels. Working out of the bullpen to start his minor league career, the Angels acquired the right-hander after being released by the Indians and moved him into the rotation. In the midst of a 10-6 season with a 3.15 ERA at AA, Rucinski made his MLB debut on July 10 in relief against the Rangers and pitched in two more games after the roster expanded in September. He started 2015 on the Angels 25-man roster and got the start April 14 vs. Texas, allowing four runs in three innings. He spent the rest of ’15 at AAA but returned to LA for two game in August. Rucinski throws a fastball, change-up and slider with the fastball topping out at 93.
More New Faces
Cole Brocker—Drafted by the Tigers in the 39th round in 2011 out of Sacramento City College in California, Brocker turned down a chance to turn pro and spent the next two years at Oregon State. After not getting selected in 2013, Brocker started the 2014 season with Normal in the Frontier League and was signed by the Braves in July. He posted a 3.26 ERA in 13 relief appearances in Rookie Ball. He started ‘15 in the South Atlantic League in Low , was then promoted to Carolina, and released at the end of June. Brocker returned to the Frontier League and then signed a minor league deal with the Cubs in January.
Luis Parra—Cubs are getting all the Parras. Cubs signed the 24-year-old free agent after seven years in the Rangers organization. A left-hander used primarily as s starter, Parra has logged 535 innings but only two of those have been at AA of higher. His best season was in ’14 at Myrtle Beach, going 10-7 with a 4.71 ERA in 137 innings (24 starts). A Puerto Rican WInter League veteran, he made 11 starts at High Desert (High A) last year but went 2-5 with a 7.00 ERA and a 2.02 WHIP. Cubs are in need of left-handers in the minors and Parra fills that need.
Miguel Mejia—The 27-year-old made a brief stint in Japan lat year and has never pitched above A-ball in the states. Mejia’s career begin int eh Tigers organization in 2009 and included a stop with the Marlins before being released in 2011. The right-hander has played last five season in Puerto Rican Winter League and appeared in four games in Japan in ‘15, allowing six runs on 10 hits and three walks in 3.2 innings.
Scott Barnes—An 8th round pick of the Giants in 2008 out of St. John’s University, Barnes was traded to the Indians in 2009 for Ryan Garko and the let-hander worked his way through the Indians system as a starter, going 10-12 in AA in 2010 and pitching in the Arizona Fall League. He made his big league debut in 2012 with Cleveland, appearing in 16 games with a 4.29 ERA in 19 innings. He made six appearances in 2013 and recorded his first MLB save. Branes spent 2014 in AAA and was acquired by the Blue Jays in 2015, tossing 62.1 innings between AA and AAA (52 K, 15 BB, 5.20 ERA, 1.41 WHIP). The 28-year-old provides the Cubs depth from the left side of the bullpen.
Nick Greenwood— A left-hander with big league experience and versatility as a starter and reliever, the 28-year-old spent most of his pro career in the Cardinals organization, making his big league debut in 2014, appearing in 19 games (2-1, 4.75 ERA, 36 IP, 5 BB, 17 K). Used as a starter in Memphis in ’15, Greenwood made 22 starts while logging 129 innings (13-6, 5.79 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, .313 BAA). The former Padres draft pick will compete for a spot on the Iowa roster and with the Cubs lack of left-handed bullpen depth, could be in Chicago before season’s end, even if a brief stint. Greenwood features a sinking fastball in the upper 80s, a change-up with a slider and curve as other secondary pitches.
Tommy Nance—The Cubs signed their second Frontier League hurler, adding the 25-year-old that made 29 relief appearances last season for Windy City in his first pro season. A two-year starter for Santa Clara (2012-13), the 6-foot-6 right-hander was 3-4 with a 3.60 ERA with 41 K in 50 IP his senior season. Undrafted out of college, Nance has been assigned to Mesa in the Arizona Rookie League.
Jeffry Antigua—I’m pretty sure Antigua has the frequent flyer mile lead among Cubs minors leaguers the past three seasons and the left-handed Dominican has spent the last two beating a path between Tennessee and Iowa. In 2013 he pitched for all four full-season affiliates and last year threw 133.1 innings between AA and AAA. (6-6, 3.85 ERA, 30 G, 22 GS, 46 BB, 77 K). Look for the soft-tossing lefty to fill pitching needs at the upper levels in his 10th year with the Cubs organization.
Fernando Cruz—The Cubs re-signed the Puerto Rican after he spent 2015 between Myrtle Beach (1-2, 3.78 ERA, 33.1 IP, 12 BB, 25 K) and Tennessee (2-1, 5.46 ERA, 31.1 IP, 20 BB, 31 K), working primarily out of the bullpen (32 G, 5 starts). Originally drafted by the Royals in 2007 as a shortstop, Cruz was released in 2012 after converting to the mound and signed by Cubs in ’15 after seeing him throw for Santurce in the Puerto Rican Winter League. He sports a fastball in the low 90s, a cutter in the upper 80s, and a slider in the low 80s. The right-hander provides the Cubs depth and versatility in the upper minors for 2016.