The Cubs announced several roster moves Tuesday evening prior to the deadline to set the 40-man roster in order to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft.
The Cubs designated Bryan LaHair for assignment. According to multiple reports, LaHair appears to be close to signing a contract to play in Japan. The Cubs outrighted RHP Carlos Gutierrez off the 40-man and assigned him to Triple-A Iowa. The Cubs also sent injured pitcher, Jacob Brigham, back to the Texas Rangers and acquired right-hander pitcher Barret Loux and a player to be named later from Texas. The Cubs acquired Brigham, along with a PTBNL, in the deal that sent Geovany Soto to the Rangers on July 31.
The Cubs opened three spots on the 40-man roster by trading Jacob Brigham back to the Rangers, assigning Carlos Gutierrez to Triple-A Iowa and designating Bryan LaHair for assignment. Barret Loux, by rule, was not added to the 40-man roster.
The Cubs selected the contracts of right-handed pitchers Trey McNutt and Robert Whitenack as well as infielders Christian Villanueva and Logan Watkins. The four players were added to the Cubs’ 40-man roster, which now stands at 40 players.
The Cubs acquired right-handed pitcher Barret Loux, along with a player to be named later for Jacob Brigham. The Cubs acquired Brigham from the Rangers, along with a player to be named later for Geovany Soto on July 31. Brigham dealt with elbow soreness but did not require surgery.
Loux was the 2012 Texas League Pitcher of the Year after posting a 14-1 record in 25 starts with a 3.47 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP. Loux struck out 100 batters while walking 41 in 127 innings. Baseball America ranked the 6-foot-5, 215 pound right hander the 20th best prospect in the Rangers system prior to last season.
The Diamondbacks selected Loux sixth overall in the 2010 draft but did not sign him after he failed his physical. MLB awarded Arizona with a compensation pick in the 2011 draft and declared Loux a free agent. The Rangers signed Loux in November of 2010 for $312,000.
Loux throws an easy low-90s fastball and can run it up to 96 mph. Some project Loux as a middle of the rotation starter, some as a middle reliever. Loux also throws a power slider (82-84 mph) and a curveball that was his best pitch in high school. The bite on Loux’s curveball has not been the same since he had surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow while he was in college at Texas A&M.
By rule, Barret Loux did not have to be added to the 40-man roster and is not eligible for the Rule 5 Draft.
Bryan LaHair was designated for assignment after finishing his All-Star season in a backup role. LaHair put up big time numbers early in the year (.286/.364/.519/.883 with 12 doubles and 14 home runs in 74 games, 231 at bats, before the break) but was relegated to the bench after Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson received promotions. LaHair managed just a .202/.269/.303/.572 line in the second half with five doubles and two home runs in 56 games (109 at bats).
LaHair reportedly turned down a chance to play in Japan last year for a shot to be the Cubs’ starting first baseman. According to multiple reports, LaHair will try to continue his professional career in Japan next season.
The Cubs acquired Carlos Gutierrez off waivers from the Twins on October 24. To make room on the 40-man roster, the Cubs designated Anthony Recker for assignment. Recker was picked up by the Mets the next day.
Gutierrez was assigned to Triple-A Iowa and should receive a non-roster invite to big league camp.
Christian Villanueva, Logan Watkins, Trey McNutt and Robert Whitenack
The Cubs added four players to the 40-man roster on Tuesday … infielders Christian Villanueva and Logan Watkins as well as right handed pitchers Trey McNutt and Robert Whitenack. All four players were eligible for the Rule 5 Draft if they were not added to the 40-man roster prior to Tuesday’s deadline. One notable omission was Nick Struck. The Cubs’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year was not added to the 40-man roster and will be eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 Draft on December 6. RHP Frank Batista and LHP Austin Kirk were also left off the 40-man and are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft.
The Cubs acquired Christian Villanueva from Texas in the Ryan Dempster deal. Villanueva is known more for his glove than his bat right now. The 21-year old third baseman put together a .250/.337/.452/.789 line in 25 games with the D-Cubs after the trade. Villanueva hit five doubles and four home runs in 95 plate appearances and is expected to begin the 2013 season with Double-A Tennessee.
Logan Watkins was the Cubs’ Minor League Player of the Year. Watkins had a good year with the Smokies and put together a .281/.383/.422/.805 line with 20 doubles, 11 triples and nine home runs. Watkins continued opening eyes in a short time in the AFL and is very similar to the Cubs’ current second baseman, Darwin Barney.
Just last year Trey McNutt was considered the top pitching prospect in the Cubs system but injuries and ineffectiveness pushed McNutt to the pen last season. McNutt struggled to the tune of a 9-8 record with a 4.26 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP in 34 games, 17 starts. The debate when it comes to McNutt has always been will he be a starter or a reliever. Scouts felt that McNutt’s power arm fit better in the backend of a bullpen than in a rotation. McNutt finished last season pitching out of the Smokies’ pen and was 4-1 in 17 relief appearances with a 3.81 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP (26 strikeouts and 14 walks in 28 1/3 innings).
Robert Whitenack started turning a lot of heads at the end of the 2010 season and carried the previous year’s success into 2011. But after a promotion to Double-A Tennessee, Whitenack injured his elbow during a game and ended up having Tommy John surgery. Whitenack returned to the mound last season, nearly a year to the day of his surgery, and struggled through the season … but at least he was able to pitch. Whitenack was 0-1 in four starts in August with a 4.30 ERA and a 1.77 WHIP.
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