It's a rainy Sunday morning here outside of Chicago, time to take in some of the days news and notes.
UPDATE 8:44 PM: Per Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish via Fox Sports Ken Rosentha, the Cubs have signed former Reds infield prospect Chris Valaika and have invited him to spring training. Valaika is a bat first player who sprays the ball to all fields but can be a bit over aggressive at the plate and chase balls out of the zone. He shows some extra base pop and has the potential for average power. He was drafted and developed as a SS but he's a below average defender there and is a better fit at 2B.
Also per Cotillo, the Cubs have also shown interest in infielder Chris Gutierrez and prefer to sign Samardzija rather than trade him.
Other Minor signings
There has been a few minor signings recently and we don't consider them anything but depth, so we've been holding off on the articles. We know the Cubs signed Aaron Cunningham, an athletic solid defensive RH hitter with patience, a solid bat, and power potential, but who has yet to display that at the MLB level. I think he's the Bryan Bogusevic of this year's crop and I expect him to compete with Josh Vitters and Junior Lake for a spot in the OF. The Cubs currently have Bogusevic, Ryan Sweeney, and Nate Schierholtz in their OF -- all LH hitters, so the Cubs could use some RH complements, possibly to platoon with one or two of them.
The Cubs also signed former Yankee minor league infielder Walter Ibarra. Ibarra's value lies in his versatility He can switch-hit, he can run a little and most importantlu, he can play the middle infield positions well. He's best known for his glovework. He struggles getting on base, however, and adds nothing in terms of power. He is almost certainly going to be minor league depth at Iowa but is a utility infielder candidate.
The Cubs signed another middle infielder in Jeudy Valdez who may be a bit more interesting. Valdez played in the Padres organization and is something of a toolsy infielder. He can run, having stole 34 bases in 2010 and 2011 and has enough pop to have hit double digit HRs in each of his last 4 seasons. Valdez has had issues with pitch recognition. He's also an athletic SS capable of making some flashy plays though he is also prone to making mistakes. So you can picture the type of player we're talking about -- at times exciting, at times frustrating, but at no risk, it's worth seeing if he can put it together.
The most recent signing is Rangers AAA catcher and former Giants prospect Eli Whiteside. Whiteside has some MLB experience with the Giants and has accumulated 537 PAs in his career, hitting .215/.275/.335. Presumably he'll compete for the backup catcher spot but more likely will fill the departed J.C. Boscan's role as the emergency catcher at Iowa.
Staying the Course
We've been beating the drum here for the Cubs to stay the course and we're happy to hear that Jed Hoyer has confirmed via David Kaplan that this indeed will be the Cubs strategy.
"We will not hit the fast forward button on our plan simply because people are impatient," Hoyer said. "It will make it worth it in the end."
We expect Hoyer simply is referring to quick fixes that do not fit the long term plan and not that he doesn't intend to improve the team with the right free agent signings and/or through trades. When I say right free agent signings, I would expect that the only significant pursuit would be Masahiro Tanaka and that many of the other pursuits will look very much like the ones we've seen the past 2 years. We've listed out ideas in the following articles in the past, including this general one that focused on bullpen signings, interesting position players, and starting pitching candidates.
Jeff Samardzija negotiations
Yesterday we reminded you that the Cubs do indeed intend to try and re-sign Samardzija and that some industry believe that is the correct course of action. David Kaplan tweets that the Cubs feel this way as well,
"We've had discussions with Samardzija because we like him and want to keep him," said Hoyer. "We'll see where things go. We like hearing he wants to be here."
We feel strongly here at Cub Den that the Cubs should re-sign him in absence of getting an absolute sure thing in return. It seems very plausible that the Cubs would get a top 25 prospect in all of baseball as part of what should be an intriguing package, but we can't forget that Samardzija himself is a still, young, talented pitcher who has already proven he can dominate at times at the MLB level. There is still work to be done and the main criticism I hear from scouts is simply that he needs to learn to reign it back and that he doesn't need to blow everyone away all the time. Perhaps that would even help him improve his command in the process.
Solar Sox lose AFL title game
It was a good run for the Solar Sox but their bats suddenly went quiet in the final game as they lost the game 2-0, including Kris Bryant, who went 0-4. Jorge Soler went 0 for 3 and did not play while Albert Almora sat out for precautionary reasons.
The most impressive performance was by Dallas Beeler who, despite taking the loss, went 5 strong innings, allowing just 2 hits and one run while walking one and striking out 5. The one run, unfortunately, was all it took.
He's always been considered a sleeper here, but Beeler's strong performance in the AFL likely has put him on the radar around the league. He has a 92-93 mph 2 seam fastball and a hard 87 mph slider that he complements with a mid to high 80s change-up. So everything he throws is pretty hard. One scout I talked to considers the fastball his only truly above average pitch and believes he has a good shot at the big leagues, but that it would likely be as a reliever. It seems to me that the Cubs may consider him more than that, perhaps a back of the rotation type candidate and, at the very least, rotation depth in Iowa for next season. It will be an interesting decision for the Cubs as they make their 40 man roster decisions. If Beeler is not added, he will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft in Decemper.
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