Weekend Update: Cubs Still Have Work to Do Before Pitchers and Catchers Report

It’s the last Sunday in January, there are 14 days left before pitchers and catchers report to Fitch Park and the Cubs still have at least one more roster move to make … plus announce the rest of the players that will be in big league camp on NRIs this spring.

The Cubs finally announced the signing of Carlos Villanueva to a two-year, $10 million contract on Saturday ($5 million per year). The Cubs agreed to terms with Villanueva on December 20. To make room on the 40-man roster, the Cubs designated former Rule 5 Draft pick Lendy Castillo for assignment.

The Cubs reportedly agreed to a two-year contract with Scott Hairston that could be worth up to $6 million. Hairston should be added to the roster soon and it could end up costing a player like Tony Campana a spot on the 40-man roster.

During the convention Dale Sveum said there would be 64 players in big league camp this spring. Along with the full 40-man roster, the Cubs have signed 16 players to minor league contracts that included non-roster invites to Spring Training. So if Sveum has his numbers correct, the Cubs have eight more players to invite to camp … and a couple of the candidates should be Barret Loux and Tony Zych.

The Wrigley Field restoration project figures to remain front and center throughout the week … and continue making headlines.

Jair Fernandez

According to Baseball America and the transaction page on Cubs.com, the Cubs added catching depth to their system by signing Jair Fernandez to a minor league contract.

The 26-year old right-handed catcher has spent time in three different organizations over a seven-year minor league career. Fernandez reached the Triple-A level (one game) in the Mariners’ organization in 2006 and played in 12 games at the Triple-A level in the Twins’ system in 2010. Fernandez spent last season in the Astros’ organization.

In 58 games (56 at the Double-A level, two at the Triple-A level) last year, Fernandez his .263/.336/.407 with an OPS of .744 in 217 at bats he hit 10 doubles, six home runs and walked 15 times.

The Cubs lack depth at the catcher position in the upper levels of the system, which is the main reason they will not try to sneak Steve Clevenger through waivers. The Cubs have some very interesting catching prospects in the lower levels that are at least a couple of years away. The contract does not appear to include a NRI to camp and Fernandez figures to spend the year at the Double-A level with a possible call-up or two to the Triple-A level depending on injuries in Iowa and Chicago.

Jair Fernandez’s Page on Baseball-Reference

Tony Zych

Tony Zych, the Chicago area product and the fourth round pick of the team in the 2011 draft, is on the fast track to the big leagues according to a report from Comcast SportsNet. Zych should receive a non-roster invite to big league camp and while he will likely begin the year at the Double-A level, Zych should make his Major League debut at some point during the 2013 season.

Zych turned heads in the Arizona Fall League after posting a combined 5-4 record in 47 games with the D-Cubs and Smokies last season. In 61 1/3 innings, the hard throwing right hander struck out 64 batters and walked 19 while allowing 58 hits (3.67 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP). Zych struggled a little after being promoted to the Double-A level but he will play a majority of the 2013 campaign at 22 years old (August 7, 1990).

Zych needs to work on throwing strikes consistently and he credits Jeff Fassero with the progress that he made last season.

If Tony Zych is able to harness his ability, he could be a big part of the Cubs’ bullpen moving forward.

News, Notes and Rumors

John Sickels posted his player preview on Junior Lake … and Sickels perfectly described and gave an accurate report on the very talented Junior Lake.

Mike Olt checked in as the second best third base prospect in the game … while a lot has changed for Josh Vitters after being ranked as the seventh best third base prospect by MLB.com just two short years ago.

Dave Sappelt added to the roster speculation on Thursday when he said he was shutting down his Twitter account until April … the deactivation lasted less than 24 hours and Sappelt is back on Twitter. Sappelt said he is “starting to feel the chills of the 2013 Cubs and the team is shaping out good.” Sappelt should start the season as the Cubs’ fifth outfielder.

According to Ken Rosenthal, the trade between the Braves and Arizona for Justin Upton was nearly a three-team deal that would have included the Tigers. The D-Backs really like Rick Porcello and there were talks that Nick Ahmed would have been sent to Detroit with Rick Porcello ending up in Arizona. Kevin Towers is reportedly no longer interested in trading for a starter this winter.

The Rangers signed former Cubs’ utilityman Jeff Baker to a minor league contract that included an invite to Spring Training. The Cubs acquired Baker from Colorado on July 2, 2009 for reliever Al Alburquerque and the Cubs dealt him to the Tigers on August 5, 2012 for minor league right hander Marcelo Carreno and cash.

Comcast SportsNet named Darwin Barney the Cubs’ player of the year.

Cubs Convention

The 28th Annual Cubs Convention is in the books and the 29th annual gathering is scheduled for January 17-January 19, 2014. But if anyone missed the CCO’s coverage from last weekend, click on the links below.

27 days remaining until the Cubs kick-off their Cactus League schedule in Tempe against a Los Angeles Angels split squad … and for those with vivid memories of the wonderful summer of 1984, Edward Van Halen turned 58 years old on Saturday.

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO and @TheCCO_Minors

Quote of the Day

"You can't help getting older, but you don't have to get old." - George Burns
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  • Ripsnorter1

    If the Cubs dump Campana, he’ll be picked up in a heart beat by the Cards or so other contending team.

    DFA Ian Stewart and be done with it.

    • Tony_Hall

      Most likely Campana will be picked up by a team that can park him as the 25th man and use him as a pinch runner every day, we need every player able to have a more defined role than that.

      Stewart, Sappelt and the pitching staff should all feel safe…

      Ideally they make a trade and bring in a player who does not need to be on the 25 man roster, clearing the roster spot and gaining a player back…a win/win. Of course, then we will hear talk that they didn’t get enough for Campana or another player, but we can deal with that when that happens.

      • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

        I agree Cubs dont have luxury of having a baserunner on roster. He can’t hit. Maybe he can help a contending team nut more likely he’s a caree minor leaguer

    • SuzyS

      A mlb contract, once signed. has to be reported to the mlb office in 20 days.
      The 60 day DL can be used starting 45 days before the start of the mlb season…or February 14th.

      So we are within the time period to use the DL if any of our rehabbing players…like Feldman/Baker/Vizcaino etc….need more time…they could be placed on the 60 day DL the same day the Cubs activate Hairston….and there is no DFA necessary.

      • SuzyS

        I forgot to attribute this idea to Arizona Phil on another blog site.

        • Meoli

          Good pick-up Suzy…they have a history of being a little touchy about those sort of things

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Raymond-Robert-Koenig/1295439291 Raymond Robert Koenig

        Does placing a player on the DL take him off the 40-man roster?

        • SuzyS

          Yes

          • SuzyS

            I should have expounded on this a little more….on the 60 man DL…the player is removed from the forty man roster.
            I don’t think he is removed from the roster on the 7 or 15 day DL.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Raymond-Robert-Koenig/1295439291 Raymond Robert Koenig

            Thank you both.

        • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

          A player placed on the 60-day DL does not count against a team’s 40-man roster. A player placed on the 15-day DL or new 7-day concussion DL still counts against the 40-man roster. A team can create a spot on the 40-man by placing a player on the 60-day DL.

  • Tony_Hall

    1984…..what a fun year!

    Let’s hope that one day we can say 2014-2025 what a great run!!

  • bluekoolaidaholic

    Congratulations Darwin
    Another nice reward for a hard worker that plays the game the right way.

  • The Maven

    As much as I loved the 1984 team, the 1989 team was one of true legends, with Luis Salazar’s late season heroics, the Shawon-O-Meter, and the mailman catching the home run ball.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steven-Tamara-Petty/100000776295511 Steven Tamara Petty

    So if I’m understanding this right, Junior Lake may be an outfielder of the future. Potential lineup like this from within our own organization:

    Albert Almora CF
    Starlin Castro 2b
    Anthony Rizzo 1b
    Mike Olt (trade for Garza) 3b
    Wellington Castillo C
    Junior Lake LF
    J Soler RF
    J Baez SS

    Where are th big bats? Who has potential 20 HR power? 30 HR power? Speed on the bases? Is this lineup even considering to consider? I have tread many posts and these are the names of the future! Where do we spend our money?

    • Tony_Hall

      20 HR Power from your list
      Castro, Rizzo, Olt, Castillo, Lake, Soler, Baez

      30 HR Power
      Rizzo, Olt, Soler, Baez

      Speed
      Castro, Lake, Baez

      1. Almora
      2. Castro
      3. Rizzo
      4. Soler
      5. Baez
      6. Olt
      7. Lake
      8. Castillo

    • SuzyS

      That assumes the Olt trade happens and everyone develops as planned. It’s rarely that simple…but fun to project.

      As Neil mentioned…2 years ago…Vitters was ranked as the 7th best 3b prospect in MLB. Today, He’s not being projected at all…except as a Bust…maybe he comes out of nowhere and re-establishes himself, (Highly doubtful), but it could happen.

      Maybe BJackson becomes a stud with his retooled swing…maybe not.

      You’re asking too much here…Steven. We all have opinions…but not crystal balls…That’s the fun of it.

      We are short of SP prospects in the minors upper levels…so you’ll see a lot of $$$ activity there.

    • DWalker

      Tony covered it well, but for the “where to spend money” question, the answer is the same as always. Lock up your stars, fill in gaps with market efficient FA’s, and then only pick up a star FA if its a major upgrade over what you have. FA’s that cost a draft pick are going to be something teams look VERY hard at, superstars will still sell well, but the bubble guys like Bourn this year who COULD help but aren’t stars are going to be a much harder sell. The new reality is that most good players will not see free agency, teams will lock them up. The ones that do are either too expensive for the team to keep, too good to not want to be a FA, or just not good enough to keep for the price, so don’t expect the FA frenzies that we are used to in the future.

      That said, theres always going to be a gap somewhere on the field that can be improved. Pitching for most teams is going to be a recurring place to shop, it will be years before the cubs will even think of not have to be worrying about pitching. There are some solid question marks on that list still as well, so in a year or two, we really may see a major move in the FA market, especially if the teams draft pick is later on

  • SuzyS

    Courtesy of Twitter feeds of Tim Sheridan and CCO…I just watched this video…it’s excellent…Cubs Propaganda of Course…but still excellent:http://vimeo.com/channels/madayproductions/57887658