Avoiding Arbitration, a Minor League Signing … and Other Cubs News and Notes

The Cubs crossed another task from their off-season to-do list Friday when they agreed to terms on a one-year deal with Matt Garza. The Cubs and Garza avoided arbitration just before his scheduled hearing in St. Petersburg. Garza had filed a $12.5 million salary arbitration number and the Cubs offered $7.95 million.

The two sides met just below the midway point and Garza inked a $9.5 million deal for the upcoming season that includes a $150,000 incentive package based on innings pitched. Garza receives $50,000 for reaching the 210-inning plateau and another $100,000 if he totals 220 innings in 2012.

With Garza under contract, the Cubs have signed all of their arbitration eligible players.

Lost in the news when the signing of Gerardo Concepcion was announced Thursday night was the Cubs inked lefty Ryan Rowland-Smith to a minor league deal. The Cubs have not announced the contract and whether or not the deal includes a non-roster invitation to Spring Training.

The Cubs did invite another pitcher to big league camp. According to Bruce Levine, Esmailin Caridad will be in camp on a non-roster invite. With the addition of Caridad, the Cubs NRI list currently has 22 players on it.

Here’s the update …

Gerardo Concepcion
The Cubs have not announced the signing of Gerardo Concepcion but the deal is expected to be worth as much as $8 million. The contract reportedly includes $7 million in guaranteed money and with incentives it could max out around the $8 million range.

There are also reports that the contract Concepcion signed is a Major League deal. If the reports are accurate, the Cubs will have to make another roster move to open a spot for him on the 40-man roster.

Ryan Rowland-Smith
According to multiple reports, the Cubs signed 29-year old southpaw Ryan Rowland-Smith to a minor league contract. Smith posted solid numbers in 2008 and 2009 with the Mariners before struggling to a 1-10 record in 2010 (6.75 ERA and a 1.69 WHIP in 27 games, 20 starts).

Rowland-Smith spent last season in the Astros’ minor league system.

After a brief two games in Rookie ball, Rowland-Smith posted a 2-10 record in 22 games, 19 starts, at the Triple-A level with a 6.19 ERA and a 1.64 WHIP.

Ryan Rowland-Smith’s Page on Baseball-Reference

Jorge Soler
Baseball America ran scouting reports for several of the Cuban players garnering attention this off-season … among those players was Jorge Soler.

The Cubs have been linked to Jorge Soler all winter. Many feel the Cubs will be in the middle of the bidding for Soler once he can begin negotiating with teams. Unlike Yoenis Cespedes, Soler has not established residency in the Dominican Republic … which is the first step in him becoming eligible to sign with a big league team.

Soler, 19 years old, will need a couple of years in the minors before he is ready for a shot in the majors. Soler has a very high ceiling with the offensive and defensive potential to be a productive right fielder at the Major League level.

Soler is listed at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds and according to Baseball America, he stands out for his thick, physical build and strength. Soler has great power, bat speed, the ability to hit balls to all fields and a 25 home run potential. Soler is athletic for his size with a 60-yard dash time that grades out as above average speed … and his above-average arm can handle right field.

According to Baseball America, “while scouts like his power and some like his swing, he bars his front arm and the stiffness in his stroke is a concern for some scouts.” There is concern about his ability to hit breaking pitches but he has good pitch recognition and more on-base potential than Yoenis Cespedes.

Jorge Soler is represented by Bart Hernandez and turns 20 on February 25.

Geovany Soto
Geovany Soto joined Casey Stern and Todd Hollandsworth during Inside Pitch (MLB Network Radio/XM Radio) on Thursday afternoon and discussed his thoughts on the changes with the Cubs.

Geovany Soto sounded happy about the changes that have taken place with the Cubs this off-season. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have come in with a great attitude and a new vibe. Soto thinks the Cubs are going to be just fine moving forward under the new leadership. Soto explained that Epstein and Hoyer are doing a great job tweaking the roster.

As for the Cubs’ new skipper, Soto had a chance to talk to Dale Sveum during the convention and described his new manager as “a Baseball Bible”. According to Soto, Sveum knows everything about the game and is real old school.

Soto is looking forward to having more of a leadership role on the team. He discussed the importance of the team being able to play the game the right way and manufacture runs. He added in order for them to win games they are going to have to do all of the little things it takes to score runs because they probably are not going to him many home runs.

Carlos Zambrano was briefly discussed. Soto gave a simple answer and said, “I feel both parties needed a change.”

Soto is looking forward to working with Travis Wood and admitted he has a lot of work to do when camp begins. Soto has to learn all of the different pitchers brought in this winter and will try to catch more innings with the guys he doesn’t know in Spring Training.

Matt Garza appears to be staying with the Cubs, at least for now, and Soto is very happy Garza is still a Cub. Garza has a great attitude and knows how to pitch. Soto feels once he puts it all together, Garza will be an ace.

Soto was not happy with his performance last year. He admitted he did not use the entire field like he has to in order to be successful. Soto explained he became way too pull happy and must hit the ball where it is pitched.

Geovany Soto thinks the first weeks of Spring Training, between camp and the games, can set a tone for the entire season. Soto is looking forward to having a fresh start and seeing what type of team the Cubs will have during the upcoming season.

News and Notes
According to a report from the Sun-Times, Mike Quade took issue with Dale Sveum’s comments about the Cubs’ effort (or lack of it) last season.

Mike Quade has some advice for Robin Ventura on how to deal with the Chicago media.

The Red Sox hired former Cubs’ scout Gary Hughes. Hughes will serve as a Special Assistant to GM Ben Cherington. Hughes is widely regarded as one of the best scouts in the game. Jim Hendry and Gary Hughes go way back but find themselves in the middle of what ESPN calls the best rivalry in all of sports.

The Cubs were one of the teams rumored to be interested in signing reliever Todd Coffey … but the veteran right-hander agreed to terms with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The one-year deal with an option was announced Friday.

Well, there’s the update … and I’m sticking to it.

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