Cubs will look at minor league free agent pool

On the eve of the GM meetings and with a beefed up front office, the Cubs will head into Milwaukee looking to add assets to the team.  I don’t expect them to sign a big name free agent in the next couple of days, if at all, but we could see them add a few minor league free agents to try and fill some holes.  These wouldn’t be glamor signings by any means, but the Cubs may be able to find a hidden gem or two.  Ryan Ludwick, Garrett Jones, and Casey McGehee are examples of recent minor league free agents who made impacts in the majors.  Here’s 10 names to keep your eye on…

1. Shairon Martis, 24, RHP: Although he’s just 24 years old, Martis has already spent parts of two seasons with the Washington Nationals.  Last year he spent the year in AAA as a starter where he went 8-6 with a 3.05 ERA.  Just as importantly he showed good control and excellent strikeout ability with a 2.64/9.88 walk to strikeout ratio.

2. Brandon Moss, 28, OF: Moss was a former prospect in the Red Sox system and a player that Epstein was reluctant to give up in the Jason Bay trade.  He spent last year at AAA Lehigh Valley playing for Ryne Sandberg where he put up a .275/.368/.509 line with 23 HRs.

3. Brandon Wood, 26, 3B: Once the Angels top prospect, Wood fits the Cubs philosophy of adding athletic players who can help on the defensive side of the ball.  He showed the ability to hit for average with 25-30 HR power as a prospect but has come nowhere near approaching that kind of success in the majors.  He spent most of last season with the Pirates where he hit .220 with 7 HRs.

4. Lastings Milledge, 26, OF: Once considered a 5 tool player, Milledge nearly sabotaged his promising career because of immaturity.  He’s now older and hopefully wiser.  He spent last year in AAA in the White Sox organization where hit a very solid .295/.364/.441. He has continued to play very well in the Venezuelan League (.309/.371/.500).  Once a disaster, Milledge’s defense has improved since his days with the Mets.

5. Chris Lubanski, 26, OF: Lubanski was the 5th pick overall in 2003 by the Kansas City Royals.  After a promising start to his pro career, Lubanski faded badly.  He missed all of 2011 but had a resurgent 2010 in which he hit .293/.361/.538 for the Toronto Blue Jays AAA affiliate.  Perhaps he can be a Ryan Ludwick type story who also went from top prospect to bust to minor league free agent find.

6. Will Inman, 24, LHP: Inman was once a top 10 prospect with the Padres.  He’s a finesse pitcher who relies on control and command of his pitches.  Oddly his walk rate has been going up while his strikeout rate continues to climb, all the way up to 9.23 last season.  He’s still young, actually younger than prospect Chris Rusin, and if he can find his control he can still be a useful bottom of the rotation starter.  It doesn’t make him better than guys like Rusin or Eric Jokisch, but he could add some depth and competition.

7. Mark Antonelli, 26, 3B:  Antonelli was a top 10 prospect back in 2009 for the Padres before dropping off when he reached the upper levels.  His defense has improved and, as a bonus, he can also play 2B.  One much needed trait he would bring is excellent plate discipline.  His line last season was .293/.393/.460.  Antonelli can add some competition to the 3rd base derby or make the roster as a utility player.

8. Rob Delaney, 27, RHP: Delaney had a great year as a relief pitcher for Tampa’s AAA affiliate.  He had a 1.86 ERA and a very good 2.26/7.58 walk to strikeout ratio.

9. Adam Miller, 26, RHP: Miller was once one of the top 2 or 3 pitching prospects in all of baseball but injuries have completely derailed his career.  He was able to pitch for the first time since 2008 last year, throwing 44 innings.  This goes under “he’s still young and if he stays healthy we could really have something” category.  It’s low risk, high reward — but an extreme longshot to say the least.

10. Jhonny Nunez, 26, RHP: Nunez was in AAA with the White Sox last year where he was extremely inconsistent.  The upside is he can hit 97 mph with his fastball, though he often works at 92-94 mph.  He has a live arm had a very respectable 3.42/9.51 walk to strikeout ratio in 2011.  He’s currently dominating the Venezuelan League with a 1.04 ERA

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    A lot of interesting names on that list.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I was surprised. I was hoping to find about 5. I could have added a few more probably.

  • In reply to John Arguello:


    Are there a few that you feel the Cubs are most likely to sign? personally, most of them sound like they could be a fit, with as many holes as this team has right now.

  • In reply to supercapo:

    I'm not sure at this point. I'd like to see them sign at least one of the top 3 guys on this list, but I agree that most could be good fits with a legit chance to make the roster.

  • Some nice selections, but if the Cubs sign any do they have to be
    put on the 40-man roster? One of the two 3rd base prospects
    wood be nice and could always use pitching.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Thanks! The beauty of minor league signings is that they'll probably get minor league deals with invites to ST. They'd only have to be put on the 40 man roster if they make the team.

  • A very interesting list John, some of them are really worth looking at. Brandon Moss and Lubanski intrigue me for some reason, Milledge has too much emotional baggage for me.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    There's definitely some risk with Milledge...not that there's a whole lot when they're just minor league signings, but he's the one guy on this list capable of self-destructing.

  • In reply to John Arguello:


    This is off topic, but I just read one person's summary of Sveum's comments after his interview. He stated that in his (Sveum's) opinion, it doesn't sound like the Cubs are going into rebuilding mode. Did he actually say that? I ask cause I don't remember reading it anywhere else.
    If it is true, then it sounds to me, like the Cubs will be/would have to be much bigger players in the free agent market and in making trades this off-season than originally expected.

  • In reply to supercapo:

    I'd believe it. I don't think they are going into a full-fledged rebuilding mode. I think they'll pick up a few players this offseason, not including the minor league signings, rule 5's, and other low cost options. I don't think they'll rebuild in the same way that, say, the Marlins or Pirates would.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I read somewhere that at this moment in time, the Cubs have something like 75 million committed in contracts next year. That includes Zambrano and Soriano.

    Somewhere in all the hiring of Theo news, I swear there was a write up on how another GM who interviewed and didn't get the job said that Ricketts says $150m for the payroll. That leaves a TON of room for them to do something even after spending a lot more on the draft.

    That being said, I feel like they will pick up a few decent to above average players this year, and when Soriano and Z are off the books, then we can really see what their direction is.

  • In reply to Still Love the Cubs:

    I remember reading the same thing. The Cubs will certainly have money to spend and they may surprise us with a big signing if the price comes down on certain players. With so many holes, though, I see them spreading it out as much as they can.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    A big signing in the form of a pitcher or someone more like Cespedes?

  • In reply to lokeey:

    They could afford to do both. Hoyer has said that in a big market nobody is truly off limits, but it has to be a deal that makes sense for them. They have to be young enough to still be effective for them a couple years down the road.

  • John, what is the word with Brandon Wood. The Angels once touted him as their future SS. Any thoughts on why he has struggled, he once tore the minor leagues up, I know mlb is a whole different animal, but could the scouts have been wrong with him before. Might be one to take a flyer for.

  • In reply to PJS24:

    It's a good question. The swing looks fine, he has great bat speed -- but he can be a little aggressive and he has trouble making contact sometimes. If somebody could figure it out how to get him to be a bit more disciplined and make better contact, they'd have themselves a pretty good ballplayer.

  • I like the tone of this article. I'd stay away from Milledge, but all the other names on the list seem worth a risk to me.

  • In reply to Rob Letterly:

    Thanks Rob! I was a little iffy on Milledge myself. I'm not sure if he's grown up since his days with the Mets.

  • John,
    I saw no. 5 on your list, Chris Lubanski. He is definitely a low risk high reward proposition. His 2010 season speaks for itself as a AAA allstar with an .899 OPS. This also includes a month or so on the DL because an oblique injury.

    He is local kid here in eastern PA and I believe he has parted ways with his official representation. If you know that the Cubs have interest and you have any contact with their front office, they should contact him directly.

    He is a cosumate pro with no baggage, he takes his craft very seriously. I believe he can be a solid corner outfielder by late 2012 into 2013 in Chicago at the mlb min since he has no service time.

  • In reply to Luby Fan:

    Thanks for the insight, Luby Fan. Hoping he gets a second chance too. Cubs are looking for OF'ers.

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