Cubs Pencil in a Closer with the Signing of Jose Veras

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have a veteran arm to pitch in the back of their bullpen to start the season. The Cubs agreed to terms on a one-year contract with RHP Jose Veras that carries $4 million in guaranteed money. And Veras’ deal is one that could benefit the Cubs beyond the 2014 season while giving Pedro Strop a little more time to develop. Veras’ contract would not prevent the Cubs from flipping him before the end of July and once again turn a short-term asset into young, controllable players moving forward.

Jose Veras’ will be paid a $3.85 million base salary for 2014. The contract includes a $150,000 buyout on a club option for 2015 that could be worth $5.5 million. Veras can also earn an additional $750,000 based on the number of significant games finished (games saved).

Veras gives the Cubs a veteran in the back of their pen and he will go into the Spring Training as the team’s closer according to multiple reports. The front office still thinks Pedro Strop has the ability to close games and the addition of Veras will give him time next year instead of just throwing him into the role.

The Mariners had an offer on the table to Veras and both the Rockies and Astros were reportedly in the mix for Jose Veras after he notched a career high 21 saves for Houston and Detroit last year. Veras recorded career lows in ERA (3.02) and WHIP (1.07) and finished 45 of the 67 games he appeared in. The Tigers declined a $3.25 million option on Veras in November and made him a free agent. Brandon Hyde should know the Cubs’ new closer rather well. Hyde and Veras were together in Florida during the 2010 season.

Rick Renteria will have multiple options for his bullpen when Spring Training begins on Feb. 13. Pedro StropHector Rondon, Justin Grimm, Blake Parker, Arodys Vizcaino and Alberto Cabrera will compete for spots in the pen from the right side while Wesley Wright, James Russell, Zac Rosscup and Brooks Raley will give Renteria options from the left side. Plus Carlos Villanueva and Chris Rusin could end up in the rotation or in the pen as long relievers with the way the roster is currently constructed. And the Cubs are hoping Kyuji Fujikawa is back by June.

The addition of Jose Veras takes the Cubs out of the mix for other right handed relievers on the market (Mitchell Boggs, Joaquin Benoit) but they are believed to still be interested in LHP Jonathan Sanchez and LHP Clayton Richard. The Cubs view both lefties as relievers and not starters, and would likely sign one of the two southpaws but not both.

The front office indicated last week they had spent a lot of time trying to improve the bullpen and the additions of Jose Veras and Wesley Wright look good on paper along with the improvements made by relievers on the roster at the end of the season.

Once the signing of Jose Veras is announced, the Cubs will have a full 40 man roster. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer would like to add at least one starter this winter and the big league roster currently has four lefty relievers on it.

Jeff Samardzija

The Jeff Samardzija rumors took a little breathier Tuesday after reports on Monday indicated the Braves are no longer in the mix.

Jim Bowden posted a list of ten moves that he feels should still happen this off-season on Tuesday … and the Blue Jays trading for Jeff Samardzija was number two on Bowden’s report.

Bowden acknowledged the Cubs are asking for Aaron Sanchez to be part of any deal for Samardzija. But Toronto is not willing to include Sanchez in a Samardzija trade. Bowden thinks a package of RHP Marcus Stroman, LHP Daniel Norris and OF Anthony Gose would probably get the deal done. Baseball America recently ranked Stroman as the second best prospect in the Blue Jays’ system behind Sanchez and Norris checked in at number six. The once highly touted Gose has really struggled in the big leagues and hit just .259/.283/.408 with six doubles, five triples and two home runs in 52 games for the Jays last season.

Masahiro Tanaka

The Rakuten Golden Eagles have not officially posted Masahiro Tanaka but as The Tanaka Watch entered day two, all signs are pointing to him being posted in the very near future.

Masahiro Tanaka told the Eagles on Monday night (Central Standard Time) that he wants to pitch in the majors next season and asked to be posted. Reports indicated an official announcement on Tanaka being posted might take a couple days.

Jerry Crasnick reported on Tuesday night that he was hearing that Tanaka has picked an agent but is not ready to make it known who will represent him while he is negotiating deals with big league clubs.

Multiple reports (and speculation) on Tuesday indicated Masahiro Tanaka is looking at a contract north of $100 million, plus the $20 million posting fee. The Yankees covet Tanaka and will go all out to sign him according to ESPN New York … even if it means soaring past the self-imposed $189 million payroll for next season.

Darwin Barney

Even with Brian Roberts heading to the Bronx and Jim Hendry finally having Roberts in an organization he works for, Jim Bowden still thinks Darwin Barney ends up with the Yankees by Opening Day.

Brian Cashman is interested in trading for Darwin Barney or the Nationals’ Danny Espinosa according to Bowden. The Yankees do not have many tradable pieces in their system and Cashman is not going to be pressured into making a bad deal for either Barney or Espinosa by either the Cubs’ front office or Mike Rizzo.

The Cubs are looking for young players, and more than likely pitching in return for Darwin Barney, according to Jim Bowden, and Cashman is not willing to deal one of their better starting pitching prospects for Darwin Barney.

News and Notes

The Red Sox released RHP Chris Carpenter on Tuesday so he could sign with the Yakult Swallows. Carpenter was sent to Boston as part of the compensation for the Red Sox letting Theo Epstein out of his contract.

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Quote of the Day

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