Looking for hidden gems in the non-tender market

Well, maybe not “gems”, but you can find a useful player, as Tampa did last year with Jeff Keppinger.

The Cubs biggest positions of need are OF (specifically CF), SP, RP, and 3B. We’ll look at those areas.


  • Andres Torres:  Once a Cubs farmhand, the former speedy, switch-hitting OF’er had a breakout year in 2010 with the Giants.  He has yet to match those offensive numbers but his defense remains stellar.  If Torres could hit .260-.270, his patience should bring his OBP up around the .340-.350 level, and he has the good speed to be an asset once he’s on the bases.  That’s a big IF however, Torres is just a .240 hitter for his career.
  • Ryan Sweeney: The former top White Sox position prospect, Sweeney hasn’t lived up to expectations.  He defends well and has average to slightly above average plate discipline, but he hasn’t hit for much power.  In fact, he did not HR last year and has hit just 2 in the past 3 years combined.


  • Mark Reynolds: The slugging 3B is the only one worth consideration other than Ian Stewart, himself.  Reynolds is famous for his enormous HR power and his even more prolific strikeout totals.  Reynolds has struck out in nearly 1 of every 3 PAs for his entire career.  He was at 30% last season.  His other weakness is his defense, which is well below average at 3B.  He does provide power and is a patient hitter, both of which appeal to the Cubs front office, but they may get overshadowed by the low contact rate and iron glove.


  • Jeff Karstens, 30, RHP: Probably the least known but I think he’s the best pitcher on this list.  He went 5-4 with a 3.97 but sported an impressive 3.38 FIP largely on the strength of a strong strikeout to walk ratio (6.55/1.49).  He controls the strike zone, which is what the front office wants.  His stuff is bottom of the rotation quality and he’s never pitched more than 162 innings in a season, so durability is a concern.  But he may be a great fit as a 6th starter.  Could fill in until Scott Baker is ready, go to the bullpen and then return to the rotation later in the season if the Cubs have injuries or trade starters.
  • John Lannan, 28, LHP: Another 5th starter type.  Lannan appeals because he could potentially balance the rotation.  The question is whether he would want that swingman role.  He’s been vocal about his desire to start.  He doesn’t have the control nor does he miss bats as well as Karstens, but he’ll get you a ton of ground balls, so the Cubs good IF defense would help him.
  • Jair Jurrjens, 26, RHP: A popular name in Twitterville, I don’t share the same sentiment.  Jurrjens isn’t the same pitcher he was in 2008-2009 when he looked like he was going to be a mainstay in the middle of the Braves rotation.  The fastball is down 3-4 mphs and while he was never a big strikeout guy, those rates are falling to abysmal levels, including 3.54 per 9 IP last year.  Moreover, Jurrjens doesn’t have the pinpoint command you want from your finesse, pitch to contact pitcher.  He’s young, so maybe he can regain some of the life in his pitches but I wouldn’t do more than a minor league deal with spring training invite.
  • Mike Pelfrey, 28, RHP: With a little luck and the NY media behind him, Pelfrey may have been a bit overrated when he went 15-9 with a 3.66 ERA two years ago. He also had a nice season in 2008, but was never ever to duplicate those seasons as peripherals and injuries eventually caught up to him.  He’s a pitch to contact guy with average command, the kind that needs more than his share of luck to put up good numbers.   He had TJ surgery and may not be ready until mid-season.  S


  • Scott Atchison, 36, RHP:  Atchison is a bit of a late bloomer with average stuff that plays up because of his good command.  He had an excellent strikeout to walk ratio of 6.31/1.58 per 9 IP to go with an outstanding 1.58 ERA. Obviously not a guy you pick up for the long haul, but could patch a hole in the bullpen the way Shawn Camp did last year.
  • Manny Parra, 30, LHP: Parra throws hard for a lefty, in the 92-93 range and able to dial it up into the mid 90s.  He also has good stuff across the board with a repertoire that includes a slider, curve, and change.  What Parra doesn’t have is command and it has negated his talent.  A couple of things intrigue me about Parra, would he come to the Cubs where he could work with Chris Bosio and secondly, would the Cubs entice him by promising him a shot at starting again?  He has enough pitches but the once former top prospect never really was able to put it together.
  • Pete Moylan 34, LHP:  He was a reliable reliever for the Braves up until missing most of the last two seasons.  Would be a steadying influence, but the guess here is that he’s staying with the Braves.
  • Tom Gorzelanny, 30, LHP: The former Cubs starter has taken well to the bullpen, putting up a 2.88 ERA and striking out nearly 8 per 9 innings.  His undoing is that he still hasn’t mastered the strike zone with almost 4 walks per 9 IP.
  • Brian Wilson, 31, RHP: h/t to Mike Moody on this since I missed him in the first edit.  When healthy, Wilson blew hitters away with his power fastball/slider combo.  He’s a closer in every sense of the word.  He has the stuff, he has enough command, and he has a strong mental makeup with just enough kookiness to keep hitters uncomfortable.

I’m intrigued most by Karstens and somewhat by Torres, if nothing else that his floor is as a useful 4th OF’er because of his defense, speed, and ability to switch-hit.  The first two bullpen arms are interesting for different reasons.  One because he’s a savvy vet who could help stabilize the bullpen, and the other, Parra, because he could make a nice impact if he puts it all together.  Brian Wilson can’t help but be intriguing.  He’d add a little fun to what will probably be a tough season and he’d be a prime candidate for a deadline deal, especially when you consider Theo’s desire to create value from the closer’s role.

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  • fb_avatar

    Brian Wilson was non-tendered, too. There's an intriguing flip candidate -- but you have to think a contending team will bite, too.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Was he? I heard he was going to be but I missed his name. Thanks. Would be interesting and jive with Theo's goal of creating value from the closer role.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    His name was on MLB Trade Rumors list and there's this story from CBS Sports. It looks like it -- but, well, the media has been off on these things before.


  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I'm sure you're right and I missed it completely. Will dd him on.

  • Karstens, Lannan, Pelfrey, Wilson and Torres look like the cream of this crop.

    Could the Cubs sign Pelfrey after the Rule 5 draft, add him to the 40-man roster and immediately put him on the 60-day DL, or would that have to wait until Spring Training? A relatively cheap one year deal with an option year or two at much higher levels might be a good investment.

  • In reply to cubsin:

    Nobody can be disabled until a date late in ST. I think Theo may 'overpay' to get a few guys as non-roster invitees.

  • In reply to cubsin:

    I'd pretty much agree with that list. Can't DL them so you hope you can get a guy or two on a minor league deal.

  • I'm much more bullish on this non-tendered field than the Rule5 and would really like it if our front used roster space on some of these guys. We've got plenty of salary to spend on some good arms and reclamation projects here. Maybe even an outfielder. But the pitchers are more interesting to me.

  • In reply to TokyoCraig:

    I think it's more likely they do add pitchers. I'd like to see them add better position players than the guys on this list.

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    John, great point about Manny Parra.
    I was always expecting him to break out with the Brewers, great fastball and could look dominant at times.
    If Bosio could tweak him a bit, who knows? Most lefties seem to be better in their 30's...as long as he's healthy, it may be a wise move.
    Do you know if he worked with Bosio before?

  • In reply to AdolphoPhillips67:

    I think they must have crossed paths. I know for certain that Frankie De La Cruz did in 2011 and that he came to the Cubs largely because of the presence of Bosio. I don't know, however, if Parra feels the same way.

  • John, The cubs won't be able to attract najor players with the roster they have now. Is there any chance for a major trade? They seem to subtract but not add.

  • In reply to pricewriter:

    I think if they look like they're headed in the right direction and close to winning, guys will want to come here. Right now, attracting the marquee names will require an overpayment.

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    One interesting non-tender is Jake Brigham. Not because of Jake, but because it's now very clear that Loux trade was all about doing the Cubs a solid, as a makeup for injury to Brigham. The Rangers clearly didn't want Brigham back, they must have had an agreement with Theo and Co. to make things right.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I do have some respect for the Rangers organization after that. It's not like they would have ripped the Cubs off even if they didn't rework the deal. Soto was awful, but he was a warm body with some experience, I guess. Texas will almost certainly re-sign Brigham, though, and he's not a bad prospect himself. Better raw stuff than Loux. But command and those injuries make him a much bigger risk.

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    Always liked Ryan Sweeney. OBP and defense. sign him to a 1 year deal. play in the NL. he may be the perfect stopgate

  • In reply to Jeffrey Schrader:

    If he hits with a bit more power, then I think he could fit nicely.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    If he hits with a bit more power isn't he just a poormans Brett Jackson at that point lol

  • Parra seems like good gamble for reclaimation. He has a good arm. I like the ideas of making him a starter and working with Bosio history or not.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Intrigues me too. Probably has the best arm (outside of maybe Wilson) on this list.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Wilson never met a Tv camera that he didn't love. His schtick may not wear well. Of course, if he gets outs...

  • In reply to 44slug:

    True :) I like the idea of Cubs being a team that could guarantee him closer role if they trade Marmol, as many expect. Then flip him if he rebuilds value.

  • I like the idea of Karstens and Keppinger but I would be happy with some of the other names too. Would take a chance on Moylan if possible and always liked Gorzelanny.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Moylan would be a real chance to add value. Could even close for Cubs. Stealing him from Braves will be the difficult part.

  • Wilson would be very intriguing but probably makes sense only if Marmol is dealt.

    I've always liked Ryan Sweeney as a 4th OFer; brings a lot of versatility and makeup, if not power.

    Btw, I can't get over how nonsensical the Bourn talk is. He makes almost the LEAST amt of sense amongst the bigger name FAs.

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    I don't get it either on Bourn. Only way I can see it is as a fallback where if Bourn can't get the big 5 year deal he wants, maybe he goes to Cubs for high AAV on 1-2 year deal with the understanding that the Cubs would flip him to a contender at the deadline.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Bruce Levine talked about Bourn on the radio this morning. He understood the reasoning, because Bourn is a professional, and sets a good example. He's young enough that he could still be productive in 5 years, which is the length of deal he is looking for. And it would signal to the fans that we are not giving up on this year completely, and working to get better. Plus, Theo and Co. never give out no-trades, so we can always deal him later.

    That being said, he also would walk if Bourn's asking is too sky-high.

    BTW, Levin made another good point on money; all clubs will get $78 mil per year starting 2014 from national TV and MLB.com revenue. That's $78 mil BEFORE any local TV deals, and before the turnstiles even open. Free Agent $$ is about to go through the roof!

  • Something that complicates Brian Wilson, this is his second Tommy John surgery. He had it done in April. The success rate is much lower for the second time around, and the recovery is usually at least 18 months.
    What kind of contract do you think Wilson would demand?
    Karstens is a good pitcher, but has always had durablity issues. Read online somewhere that his wife works in Baltimore, and if he was non-tendered he wanted to try and stay on the East Coast and get with a contending team.
    Manny Parra is the guy to get, but I bet you a lot of teams looking for lefty bullpen help will be all over him. The Cardinals for one. What kind of money would he be looking for?

  • Good point on that 2nd TJ surgery. Good info on Karstens too. Maybe he goes to the O's or Nats. That would make some sense for him.

    Hard to know on Parra without knowing the market for him. Cubs may have to get creative (i.e. give him a shot at starting again).

  • Theo always talking weeks about how he has to be "blown away" for a trade dealing with Castro........then I heard the other day Theo saying "no one" on the team is untouchable..........well I heard from a "good source" in New York last night that Theo might have his "blown away" trade...... Castro & Soriano going to the Yankees! Yankees will eat Soriano's contract to get Castro.

    Sounds like Cubs get many Yankees top prospects.

    My New York source said that Yankees need a replacement for Jeter, who will move to the OF.

    Wilson will sign with the Dodgers....
    That Japanese pitcher will sign with the Angels....
    Both Parra & Karstens sound more sense for the Cubs....

    So does anyone know who are the top Yankees prospects that come to the Cubs in a Castro trade?

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    I can't think of anyone in the Yanks' system who makes that interesting. Mason Williams? Gary Sanchez? Their farm pitching stinks.

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    I looked at the Yankees system, it does not look great......Rays, Rangers and Blue Jays have better minor league players........I hate to see Castro get traded......I wonder if there is something going on with Castro and the Cubs?

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    This is what's going on: Theo called him a core player and signed him to an extension.

    I would think that's clear enough, but maybe that's not as exciting as fabricated rumors from dubious sources.

    I've talked to numerous people on Castro. He is not going anywhere.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Haven't you heard, Jeter is moving to the outfield, and he will also challenge Mark Sanchez for the starting job with the Jets. My sources told me!

  • fb_avatar

    Jeter hasn't even been able to put weight on that leg yet.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Nice to see you call him out.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Yankees don't have the goods to get Castro. Carl9730 mentioned a couple. Also Slade Heathcott Prospects all at lower level. High risk. Upper level prospects are either busts or injured or both. Don't see a match there at all.

    And wouldn't take too much stock in untouchable line. It's common for a front office to say that. They followed up by saying there are a couple of guys they'd have a very difficult time trading. Which means Castro -- and they definitely won't trade him for Yankees Class A guys, none of whom are anything close to elite prospects.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Looking at the Yankees system....it is not great at all.....as I said before, other teams have much better prospects to offer to the Cubs for Castro....but I rather keep him...............

    I remember when Bruce Sutter was traded around this time, GM Kennedy turned down the Cardinals of giving us Terry Kennedy, Tommy Herr, & Durham.......GM Kennedy did not want put pressure on his son coming to the Cubs............so it was Durham, Ken Reitz, which the Cubs had to give money to waive Reitz no trade clause, and PTBNL...Cardinals offer Herr again, Cubs said "no"....offer Van Slyke, another "no".....so the Cubs took Ty Waller.........

    Sutter went to the HOF as a Cardinal........Kennedy, Van Slyke & Herr had good careers......Waller disappeared....Durham let a ball go under his leg in 84 playoffs and Reitz was doing drugs & living under stadium bleachers at some Modesto baseball stadium years later.

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    In reply to CubsTalk:

    The Soriano contract is not a binding constraint on the Cubs -- they don't need anyone to eat it. So giving up Castro to get the Yankees to eat the contract is foolish. I agree with everything said above about Castro, but if the Cubs did Package Castro and Sori together they would want to eat all of Sori's contract to boost the return. And probably a year of Castro's.

  • I'm not interested in any of the position players. At all.

    On the flipside, I'd be fine with any of the pitchers (minus Jurrjens and Atchison). Wouldn't mind seeing Lannan or Karstens as 5th in the rotation/swing men. Parra would be great. Wilson is intruiging if he can pitch and build value before the trade deadline... actually, he's just intruiging. He could fill in for Marmol if/when he gets traded.

  • In reply to Pura Vida:

    More likely to focus on pitchers, I think. Cubs will probably look at main FA/trade markets to fill position player voids, but I think they'll scour the lesser markets for pitcher in hopes of finding a bargain.

  • Wilson is a California guy.....not happening coming here.

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    In reply to CubsTalk:

    I mean no disrespect, dude, but you're excelling yourself with the nonsense today. First of all, Wilson was born and raised in New England, and grew up a Red Sox fan. And, at any rate, like most players he'll probably just take the best offer.

  • In reply to João Lucas:

    Wilson's agent already is in talks with the Dodgers.

  • In reply to João Lucas:

    It's not just today with him.

  • fb_avatar

    Nice screen name... ROFL

  • Let's keep this civil. Disagree with CubsTalk on baseball, but I don't want this blog to turn into the mud-slinging I see in other places. No room for that kind of screen name here.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Is this better, though we know both are true?

  • Does Soriano have two years left on his contract?

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    In reply to DaveP:

    Yes, he does. I expect them to be spent elsewhere.

  • Soriano came off a good year, but if he is not traded this week, then maybe in July. Plus, Soriano might just want to finish his career here in Chicago. A few teams could take Soriano....Yankees, Rays, Giants, Indians, Tigers. And how much will the Cubs pay that $39 Million left on the contract?

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to CubsTalk:

    I expect Soriano and Marmol to be gone before the start of Spring Training. Soriano probably to an American League team not on the West Coast.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    The Cubs would pay just about ALL of his salary, if they could get a decent prospect in return.

  • John,
    Completely agree with Katsten is a great fit for the Cubs.

  • The whole thing with Ian Stewart just gives me a bad feeling. I never really liked the guy, always had that ballplayer cool down perfect. Just don't look up at the scoreboard where it has a 1 at the start of my batting average.
    That he would not come to some agreement with the team, tells me all I need to know. Cubs paid him 3 million and gave him a starting opportunity. Where is the loyalty? What is good is that Theo and Jed have the cajones to let the guy walk. Most teams would not want to look bad after trading for him. Cubs are willing to admit the gamble failed and move on.

  • That is a good point. Sometimes a good front office has to know when to admit they made a mistake and cut ties, rather than keep trying to run a guy out there to prove they were right.

  • I agree with you and John on the being able to admit mistakes and that applies to field managers as well.

  • Nice work John!

    I'd love to see them sign Karstens and Parra. Both are very intriguing and let's be realistic; I would expect 2/5's of our starting rotation to be dealt at the deadline again so we need more Pitching....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Thanks Hoosier. They do have to build that depth. Those trades last year really hurt their ability to compete. They just had no depth.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Should say they should have had depth. Wells, Volstad really could have salvaged the end of the year if they would have at least pitched to their own limited abilities. They couldn't even do that.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    and Jed/Theo would be correct in expecting them to do just that... Depth is not a luxury, it's a necessity. Which is why we are still 2-3 years away from competing.

  • John,
    So what's the rule/process of signing/claiming these non tender guys? Are they basically free agents? Is this just for pre-arbitration and arbitration guys or are guys under contract somehow able to be claimed if they're released as well? I'm assuming with guys under contract, they get their contract and become free agents. Correct? How do salaries work in this process?

  • In reply to KSCubsFan:

    They are free agents in every sense of the word, free to sign anywhere and free to take whatever major or minor league contract offers they receive.

  • In reply to KSCubsFan:

    Guys under salary who are released are another matter. These 'non-tenders' mean that the players were not under contract, but didn't have sufficient service time to unilaterally declare for free agency, but the teams decided not to tender them contracts anyway.

    And yes, if a player under contract gets released, he still gets full value. MLB contracts are guaranteed.

  • fb_avatar

    John Sickels Top 20 for the Cubs system should be out today or tomorrow. Looks like its going to be an early Christmas present to Cub fans. (He would seem to really like Soler.)

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