The transactions page at MLB.com reports that the Cubs have signed two outfielders to minor-league contracts, Juan Perez, who has spent most of his time with the Giants, and Kelly Dugan, who has never played in the Major Leagues, but put up good numbers in the Phillies farm system last year. Both have played all three OF positions, and Perez has played all three in the Majors. Both are plus defenders with solid fielding percentages when playing center. Either might make a jump at some point to the active roster, depending on what happens in the spring.
Left-handed pitcher Jack Leathersich, who was claimed off waivers from the New York Mets, and then elected free agency has re-signed to a minor-league deal as well. He is recovering from Tommy John surgery, but should be ready when, or not long after, the season begins. Leathersich will likely start out with the Iowa Cubs, and could come up to bolster the bullpen down the stretch. When healthy, his numbers were good, but as always coming off health issues, the recovery is the key.
Brandon Gomes, a right-handed pitcher who played for Joe Maddon with the Tampa Bay Rays has signed a minor-league deal, and is excited for the opportunity to pitch for his old coach once again. Gomes struggled last year, but has had good relief numbers in the past.
There have been rumors since the Jason Heyward signing that the Cubs are interested in a center fielder, as Heyward’s natural position is right field. There are also rumors that, in their inimitable style, Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon may have one more “big” move up their sleeves. The thought on the streets is that Jorge Soler could be moved in return for one more proven starter for the rotation. That leaves the construction of a solid bullpen to back all of that up, and leaves the Cubs with an overage of pitching talent that might be worked into the details of a trade.
Given that the big move last August was the acquisition of aging right-hander Dan Haren, after a lot of speculation and waiting, it seems equally possible that this group of signees represents a more fiscally frugal plan, looking for the pearl in the oyster by gathering a good number of candidates together and seeing what fits.
As speculation on high-priced free agents and big trades abounds, Cubs management continues to whittle away at the holes in their lineup with smaller deals that are less spectacular on the surface, but might strike gold over the long run.