Cubs announce wave of minor league signings this week
For baseball fans, it feels like the game has come to a standstill. Player images removed from MLB.com websites, the lack of player-centric coverage on the MLB Network, and the lack of Hot Stove rumors all contribute to this sentiment. But that’s not the case, as evidenced by seven minor-league deals announced by the Chicago Cubs this week.
We’ve seen this year how critical depth can be – and with a new variant of COVID-19 raging on the gauntlet, it seems likely that depth will be just as important in 2022. Every major professional sports league is in it. proof at this time and there is no reason to believe that Major League Baseball will be the exception to this rule next year.
With that in mind, Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins added a group to the ranks this week with these minor league deals that offer major league camp invitations:
- Dixon Machado (IF), Ildemaro Vargas (IF), PJ Higgins (C), Jonathan Holder (RHP), Locke St. John (LHP), Stephen Gonsalves (LHP), Mark Leiter Jr. (RHP)
A few of these names should ring a bell with Cubs fans. Machado, Vargas, Higgins and Holder have all spent time in the organization before. Obviously, having someone like Higgins is especially important given how uncertain you have about Willson Contreras’ status on the team.
Yan Gomes signing certainly helped in that regard, but you need a little bit of depth behind him. Hopefully we won’t see Chicago again for a record 2022 backstop, but you never know in today’s world.
The Cubs seem likely (barring signing) to rely mostly on Nico Hoerner and Nick Madrigal in the middle of next year. Hoerner also has experience in the outfield, so having Vargas and Machado waiting backstage certainly won’t hurt things.
Vargas has seen very limited action with Chicago in each of the past two years – and has actually rebounded in three different organizations in 2021. Meanwhile, Machado last played in the Cubs system in 2019 when he put together an .851 OPS with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs in 102 games. He’s back after spending each of the last two seasons in the KBO.
Expect the Cubs to continue adding to free agency pitching depth
Hoyer has already dramatically improved the big-league starting rotation, but we know the reliever box will be a major focus for the team once the lockdown is over. Holder joined the Cubs last winter but suffered a shoulder injury and has never actually pitched at the major league level.
You’ll see St. John and Gonsalves compete at camp for a left-handed role out of the pen. Last year, St. John was very good for the Triple-A club of the Tigers, doing a little bit of everything: start, get out of the box and even close some games. In total he worked with an ERA of 2.58 and 11.4 K / 9 on 59 1/3 working innings.
Gonsalves has all 10 big-league appearances under his belt through 2022 and was, at one point, one of the game’s top 100 prospects. He’s really struggled with control at Triple-A and at the major league level, but he also clearly has swing-and-miss stuff, as evidenced by his 12.7 K / 9 with Triple-A Worcester the last season.
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Last, but not least, we look to Leiter Jr., who hasn’t pitched at the game’s highest level since 2018. Last year, however, between Double and Triple-A with the Tigers’ organization. , he turned in solid numbers. Tommy John and the Pandemic wiped out the 2019 and 2020 seasons for the right-hander, so we’ll see how he builds on a strong performance last year this spring.
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