The deal is for a reported $9.5 million plus a potential vesting option for a third year.
Fujikawa is a 32-year-old righthander who has spent his career pitching for the Hanshin Tigers of the Japanese PCL, where he’s put up some rather gaudy numbers as a closer. His cumulative career totals:
345 G (all in relief), 369.2 IP, 1.36 ERA, 18 HR, 5.4 H/9, 2.3 BB/9, 12.4 K/9
Well, what can one even say about stats like that? It’s frankly hard to believe that the Cubs only had to pay $9.5 million him – he’s basically a Japanese version of Carlos Marmol who doesn’t walk anyone.
So how do stats like that translate to the majors? I don’t really know. But I do know that a guy who puts up numbers like that in American A-ball would find a ticket to the majors real quick. And I’m also pretty sure that none of the guys in the Cubs’ bullpen last year could go over to Japan and pitch like that. So I’m excited to see what happens, and it certainly looks like a risk worth taking for less than 10 million bucks.
Rondon, a righthander, will turn 25 in February, but is the type of interesting pitcher that the Rule 5 Draft should really be for. He’s missed almost all of the past two seasons with injury, but before that was putting together a good minor league track record, even being named the Indians’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2009. His overall minor league numbers:
105 G (101 GS), 521.2 IP, 4.16 ERA, 54 HR, 9.2 H/9, 1.9 BB/9, 8.1 K/9
Obviously that’s a pitcher with excellent control, striking out over four times as many hitters as he walks, although he also gives up a pretty good number of homers, especially for a pitcher with as many of his innings in the low minors as he has. In fact, in 106.0 IP in AAA, he’s given up 20 HR, which is a painfully high number even in the thin air of the western PCL … but he played for Columbus in the International League. Ouch.
Still, his numbers show that he’s a guy with talent, although it’s obviously a problem that he’s only pitched 10 innings over the past two years. He pitched over the winter in Venezuela, but that said I don’t know how the Cubs can have any real idea of what kind of pitcher they’re getting. He’s been a starter his whole career in the minors, but there’s no spot in the rotation for him in Chicago, not that they’d want to put him there anyway.
Nonetheless, the Cubs will be required to keep him in the majors, so he’ll either start the season on the disabled list, or he’ll fill the same role Lendy Castillo (last year’s Rule 5 pick) filled in 2012, which was basically mop-up man in the bullpen. Can he still be effective after two years lost to injury, and at the major leagues for the first time, no less? We’ll see.
November 30 is the deadline for teams to tender contracts to players, and the Cubs have declined to offer contracts to Jaye Chapman, Zach Putnam, and Ian Stewart. All three players immediately become free agents.
Chapman was acquired along with Arodys Vizcaino in the deal that sent Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson to the Braves, and pitched in 14 games with the Cubs late in the year. In that time, he walked 10 hitters in 12 innings, although two of those were intentional. That’s way too many, but Chapman has walked too many hitters throughout his minor league career, more than 4 per 9 innings, and closer to 5 since he reached AAA. In his favor, he also posts high K rates, 9.6 K/9 during his minor league career, and he’s reasonably tough to hit. It’s a little strange to see someone with his track record let go by a team with as many bullpen holes as the Cubs, although not really surprising, since we’ve seen the Epstein-led front office jettison players with high strikeout rates before when their walk rates are also too high. Still, I’d rather see him run out there than Rafael Dolis, and I expect that he’ll be signed quickly and given a shot somewhere.
Putnam was just acquired as a waiver pickup less than a month ago. I don’t really have anything more to add than what I wrote at the time.
Stewart’s departure, of course, is the big news here. Frankly, I’m surprised, because all indications from the front office this offseason were that they were cautiously optimistic that Stewart’s injury was behind him, and that he’d be a real option at third base again going into the spring. Even still, Jed Hoyer has indicated that they’d be interested in signing Stewart as a free agent, although I assume that’s unlikely at this point. The sad thing is that, as bad as Stewart was in 2012, I’m not sure that the Cubs have a much better option at this point. It’s not like Luis Valbuena covered himself in glory as Stewart’s replacement, and Vitters looked hopelessly overwhelmed when he was promoted late in the season. Stewart’s upside is very average, but average would have been a big step up for the Cubs last year.
The Cubs needed to clear a roster space to make room for Scott Feldman, and Coleman is a logical guy to cut. He seems like he’s been around forever already, after making his big-league debut in 2010, but he’s never really been any good. He’s posted a very poor 70 ERA+ in 165.2 major league innings, and he’s struggled with his control, walking 4.5 batters per 9 innings, an unacceptably high number for a pitcher like him, without dominant stuff. If a guy is walking that many hitters, he better be striking out more than a man per inning, but Coleman isn’t even close to that with a 6.4 K/9 rate.
He doesn’t have a very distinguished minor league track record, either, so there’s really no downside to cutting him loose as far as I’m concerned. I imagine that the Cubs would prefer to keep him around, just for the sake of AAA depth, but he seems to be slipping further down the depth chart with every pitcher the Cubs acquire. And deservedly so, since he’s never shown that he’s actually any good.
EDIT 12/1/2012: Coleman has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Iowa.
The contract is reportedly worth $6 million plus incentives.
Feldman, a righthander, will be 30 in February and has spent his entire career with the Texas Rangers, where he raised some eyebrows with a 17-8 record in 2009. He’s always been a pretty mediocre pitcher, though. His career numbers:
204 G (101 GS), 727.2 IP, 4.81 ERA (95 ERA+), 82 HR, 9.6 H/9, 3.1 BB/9, 5.4 K/9
There are a few things to note here, the first of which is that Texas is a brutal park for pitchers, which is reflected in the relative difference between Feldman’s very high ERA and only slightly below average ERA+. It’s not like Wrigley is a pitcher’s haven either, but a similar performance in Wrigley as he posted in Texas will result in a much more palatable ERA for him.
Secondly, Feldman posted a career-best 3.00 K/BB ratio in 2012, despite the worst ERA of his career. In fact, his peripheral numbers in 2012 indicated a much better pitcher than either his ERA or won-lost record (6-11) would suggest, but his very high .318 BAbip seemed to undo the improvement he made toward better control of the strike zone.
So is that improvement a fluke, or an actual improvement obscured by bad luck? It’s hard to say, but things being what they are, adding Feldman to a cheap, one-year deal has a lot of appeal to me. Even if he slides back towards mediocrity, there’s not much risk on the line, and if he pitches well he’ll be quite a bargain.
The Cubs have selected the contracts of P Trey McNutt, INF Christian Villanueva, INF Logan Watkins and P Robert Whitenack
The deadline has passed for teams to add players to their 40-man rosters in order to protect them from the upcoming Rule 5 draft, and accordingly the Cubs have added these four players to the 40-man roster.
McNutt is a big, tall righthander (listed at 6’4″, 220 lbs) and has been high on the organization’s top prospect lists for a couple of years now, but the results have yet to justify the hype around him. He spent his second straight year pitching for AA Tennessee last season, and once again struggled. His 2012 numbers:
34 G (17 GS), 95.0 IP, 4.26 ERA, 12 HR, 8.8 H/9, 4.3 BB/9, 6.3 K/9
That does not represent any improvement from his 2011 season. I assume that he’ll start the year in AAA, but he’s now coming off of two bad years in the advanced minors after dominating A-ball in 2010. I can see why the Cubs wouldn’t want to lose him in the Rule 5 draft, and they probably would have, but at the same time, he’s 23 already and has to show significant progress before becoming an option at the major league level.
Villanueva was acquired in the Ryan Dempster trade with Texas, and since the Cubs have very little talent at third base, he immediately became an important factor in the Cubs’ long-term plans. He’s still young, not turning 22 until this coming June, and figures to start the season in AA. He’s definitely one to watch.
Watkins, who turned 23 in August, was named the Cubs Minor League Player of the Year for 2012, after spending the entire season with Tennessee. His numbers from 2012:
588 PA, .281/.383/.422, 9 HR, 97 K, 28 SB in 35 attempts
He’s an interesting player, having been drafted by the Cubs in the 21st round in 2008. His climb up through the minors has been slow but methodical, being promoted one level each year, and playing mostly 2B but also occasionally SS and CF. Frankly, he looks like a better prospect than Darwin Barney ever did, with very good on-base skills, possibly developing power (his 9 HR in 2012 beat his previous career best of 5 in 2011), and the ability to steal bases. I don’t know how good he is defensively, but it’ll be interesting to watch him in AAA this year, especially if he’s able to add some more power to his bat. Even still, he looks like a useful player; he even bats lefty, which is nice.
Whitenack, a tall (6’5″) righthander, is the least interesting of these four players to me, and his promotion to the 40-man roster was a big surprise to me. He missed most of 2011 after Tommy John surgery, and struggled mightily upon his return in 2012:
15 G (all starts), 51.1 IP, 5.96 ERA, 4 HR, 12.3 H/9, 4.7 BB/9, 5.4 K/9
Yikes, that’s awful across the board. Before being hurt, he was off to a good start in 2011, with a 1.93 ERA over 60.2 IP split between Daytona and Tennessee. Up until that point, though, his minor league track record is unaccomplished, and specifically he’s had trouble striking people out throughout his minor league career with a career 5.9 K/9 rate. His surgery really set him back, and now he’s 24, with only 37.2 IP in the high minors under his belt. I’m not altogether sure why the Cubs wanted to use a roster spot on him, but they’re smarter than me. Still, I think it’s unlikely that Whitenack becomes a good major league pitcher.
This is a surprise, but at the same time not really much of a surprise, you know? LaHair, as we all know, got off to a hot start, was named to the NL All-Star team in July, slumped horribly, and by the end of the season was barely playing. With Anthony Rizzo firmly entrenched at first base, and LaHair basically incapable of playing adequate defense at basically any other position, the Cubs simply had no futher role for him to fill.
He’d probably make a good platoon DH in the American League, but it’s being reported that he’s headed to Japan. I wish him luck, because he was a lot of fun to watch over the first couple months of last season.
EDIT 11/22/2012: As expected, the Cubs have released LaHair, and he’s signed with the Softbank Hawks in Japan.
When Gutierrez was claimed off waivers last month, I wrote that it was “probably 50/50 at best that he even stays on the 40-man roster until spring training starts.” Now he’s been demoted off the 40-man roster, so that’s that. He figures to start the season as AAA depth.
The Cubs have acquired P Barret Loux from the Rangers for P Jacob Brigham and a player to be named later
Here’s an odd deal, in that the Cubs just acquired Brigham this past summer, from the Rangers, in the Geovany Soto deal. Apparently there was some concern about Brigham’s health at the time, though, even though it wasn’t reported then, and sure enough Brigham was shut down with arm problems after two games for the Cubs’ AA affiliate in Tennessee. The Rangers agreed to revisit the deal, and here we are.
And frankly, I’m more impressed with Loux than I am Brigham, although Loux comes with his own injury concerns. Loux will be 24 in the spring, but was a former first-round draft pick just two years ago, and has been very sharp thus far in his minor league career. His numbers with AA Frisco last year:
25 G (all starts) 127.0 IP, 3.47 ERA, 10 HR, 8.5 H/9, 2.9 BB/9, 7.1 K/9
That’s altogether better than Brigham managed for the same Frisco team last season:
21 G (all starts), 124.0 IP, 4.28 ERA, 19 HR, 8.9 H/9, 3.3 BB/9, 8.4 K/9
Plus, Brigham is over a year older than Loux. Again, Loux comes with injury concerns, but considering that Brigham is also hurt, what’s not to like? I’m not saying that he’s a future All-Star, but unlike Brigham, it’s not hard to imagine Loux earning a spot on a major league staff one day.
The other major factor in this deal is that Brigham was on the 40-man roster, and Loux will not have to be added to the 40-man in the foreseeable future. So he has time to develop without the Cubs having to rush him or make a decision right away.
The deal is worth a reported $1.35 million.
Not much to say about Camp that hasn’t already been said by me, for example in this post. Camp had a reasonably good year in 2012, and will be back in more or less the same role in 2013. I’ll be pretty surprised if he can pitch in 80 games again and stay effective, though, so hopefully the front office can find him some help in the bullpen.