While the North Siders haven’t been as aggressive adding minor-league position players as they have as pitchers during the off-season, they have added depth, especially in the outfield.
With a possible fifth outfield spot on the 25-man roster up for grabs, the addition of Shane Victorino, Matt Murton, and Juan Perez to camp this spring find themselves in a battle with Matt Szczur. They’ve also added IF Munenori Kawasaki. 1B Jesus Guzman, IF Christopher Negron, C Tim Federowicz, OF Kelly Dugan, OF Mike O’Neill, and C David Freitas.
Here’s a look at the newcomers to Cubs camp this spring:
Shane Victorino, OF—He’s recovered from back surgery, back to switch-hitting, and is the favorite to land a spot on the Cubs 25-man roster when they break camp. That is if they decide to leave Mesa with five outfielders. The 35-year-old is starting his 13th MLB season, playing with Padres (2003), Phillies (2005-012) Dodgers (2012), Red Sox (2013-15) and Angels (2015). A career .275/.340/.425 slash in 1,299 games, Victorino provides the Cubs experience, depth, and if he can return to anywhere near his 2013 season before the injury (.294/.351/.451, 122 G), another weapon off the bench. If he doesn’t leave camp with the team, the four-time gold glove winner may head to Iowa to get into game shape and get more at-bats from both sides of plate.
Matt Murton, OF—A fan favorite when he played for the North Siders for four seasons, the red-headed outfielder returns to Chicago after spending the last six years in Japan. A first-round pick of Cubs President Theo Epstein with the Red Sox in 2003 (32nd overall), Murton was traded to Chicago in in 2004 as part of a four-team deal that sent Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs. With the Cubs, Murton hit .294/.362/.448 in 308 games and had his best season in 2006 when he batted .297 with 13 homers and 62 RBI. With the return of Dexter Fowler and adding Victorino, the odds are against the 34-year-old breaking camp with Cubs.
Juan Perez, OF—Perez played 117 games as a reserve in three seasons with the Giants and his best tool is his glove Also possessing decent speed, Perez was the Giants 13th round pick in 2008 out of West Oklahoma State Community College. After four full seasons in the minors, including all-star seasons at Augusta and San Jose, Perez made his MLB debut after hitting .291/.323/.466 in 101 games in AAA. A member of the 2014 World Series team, Perez played in 61 games for the champs but hit just .170 (17-for-100). He spent most of 2015 in AAA and after being recalled to the Giants, ended the year on the DL with an oblique strain after hitting .282/.300/.359 in 22 games. Perez provides the Cubs a reliable backup in Iowa.
Munenori Kawasaki, IF—Know more for his colorful personality than his play on the diamond, the 34-year-old spent 11 seasons in Japan (1,145 G, 294/.345/.378, 267 SB). Kawasaki hit .192/.257/.202 in 61 games for Seattle in 2012 and after being released, was signed by the Blue Jays. Bouncing between AAA and Toronto, Kawasaki hit .242/.326/.301 in 201 games for the Blue Jays over the last three years. He may see plenty of time at short in Iowa and unless the Cubs are plagued with injuries, its unlikely he sees Wrigley but provides the Cubs with the repetitive depth they seek with MLB experience.
Tim Federowicz, C—Originally drafted by the Red Sox in the 7th round in 2008 out of the University of North Carolina, Federowicz was traded to the Dodgers in 2011 and made his pro debut. After three years in L.A., he was shipped to the Padres as part of the Matt Kemp trade, and spent all of 2015 in the minors. He was granted free agency in November and signed with the Cubs on Jan. 14. The 28-year-old backstop gives the Cubs a backup in AAA with major league experience. In 89 big league games, Ferderowicz hit .194/247/.300 in 271 plate appearances. Federowicz will split time behind the plate with Contreras at Iowa and could be the first catcher called up if one is needed.
Mike O'Neill, OF—The Cardinals 31st round pick in 2010 out of USC, O’Neil spent six years in the St. Louis organization before the Cubs selected the 27-year-old in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft. Primarily a singles hitter from the left side, O’Neill epitomizes what the Cubs brass looks for at the plate with a career .412 OBP in 549 minor league games and almost twice as many walks (319) as strikeout (163) in over 1,800 at-bats. O’Neill has started the last three seasons in AA and earned a promotion to AAA but never got the call to the bigs. Slowed by an injury in ’15, O’Neill should see playing time at Iowa and provide depth from the left side.
Kris Negron, IF—The 29-year-old had his 2015 season cut short in Cincinnati after landing on the 60-day DL after shoulder surgery. A middle infielder for most of his 10-year pro career, Negron was drafted by the Red Sox (7th round-2006), traded to the Reds in 2009, and made his pro debut in 2012 after two seasons in AAA. Negron spent 2013 back in the minors but saw action in 49 games in 2104 and 43 last year for the Red Legs. Negron’s health will be in question to start the 2016 campaign but he does provide the Cubs more depth in the middle infield at Iowa.
Kelly Dugan, OF—The 25-year-old former second-round pick out of high school, spent seven years in Phillies organization before hitting free agency and signing with the Cubs. Dugan spent three seasons in AA and hit .315/.391/.393 in 44 games last year before being promoted to AAA (.221/.295/.298 131 at-bats). Dugan did slug 20 homers in 2013 between Clearwater and AA Reading but injuries the last two seasons have limited his playing time and his power numbers.
Jesus Guzman, 1B—With over 1,000 plate appearances in the majors, Guzman provides the Cubs depth they hope they never have to rely on. Other than Daniel Vogelbach and Jacob Rogers, the Cubs really don’t have any other true first basemen in the system. Guzman, signed as a free agent in 2000 by the Mariners out of Venezuela, spent last year in Japan, playing 34 games for Hiroshima (.230/.336/.420). The 31-year-old made his pro debut for the Giants in 2009 and was then traded to the Padres. In San Diego, Guzman split time between the outfield and first over three seasons (322 games, .259/.326/.422, 23 HR). In 2014 he played 69 games for the Astros, most of those at first (.188/.272/.248).
David Freitas C— The third player the Cubs grabbed during the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft, the 26-year-old was the Nationals 15th round pick in 2010 out of the University of Hawaii, traded to Oakland in August of 2012, and then dealt to the Orioles in 2013. In six minor league seasons, Frietas has a slash of .269/.363/.418 in 509 games and should spend his season between Tennessee and Iowa.
Logan Watkins, IF/OF—The 26-year-old missed all of 2015 after injuring his achilles in spring training and could start the year at extended spring training, returning to game shape. A former member of the Cubs 40-man roster who made his MLB debut on Aug. 4, 2013, and played 58 games (.233/.269/.338) over two seasons, Watkins showed his versatility during his big league stint, seeing time at second and the outfield. A 21st round pick in 2008, Watkins will be in his seventh pro season and sports a minor league career slash of .274/.360/.384 over 685 games.
Jonathan Mota, IF/OF—Back for his 13th season with the Cubs and a veteran of 1,028 minor league games, the 28-year-old initially signed in 2003 out of Venezuela and made his debut the following year in the Dominican Summer League. Mota came stateside for the 2005 season, playing 63 games in Boise. He’s spent parts of seven seasons at AA Tennessee (341 games) and five at Iowa (224 games). Mota is a veteran presence for the young Cubs players, especially those from Latin America, and his versatility saves the Cubs a few rosters moves during the season as he played all nine positions.
Jesus Loya, OF— Acquired in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft, Loya’s contract was recently sold to Monterrey in the Mexican League and he will spend this season back in his native country. Originally signed by the Red Sox, the left-handed hitting outfielder spent four years in the Red Sox organization, four in Rookie Ball and retired in 2014. The 23-year-old spent last season hitting .276/.374/.342 in 84 games in the Mexican League for Ciudad del Carmen.