Bianchi, 25, was dumped by the Royals on November 30 to make room for reliever Jonathan Broxton. He was a second round pick in 2005, and showed promise, but for a number of injuries that largely derailed his career. He lost the 2010 season to reconstructive elbow surgery (Tommy John surgery), and almost all of the 2006 season to a torn labrum. Dude couldn’t catch a break.
Before the elbow surgery, Bianchi had established himself as a decent hitter in the low minors – .300ish/.350ish/.440ish – and an excellent defender in the middle infield. His 2011 season was a disappointment, however, hitting just .259/.320/.333 in 119 games at AA. He was the Royals’ projected long-term shortstop as recently as January 2010, for whatever that’s worth.
Still, Bianchi just turned 25, and his excellent glove work could find him a home eventually as a utility infielder in the bigs. One plus he’s got on Ryan Flaherty and DJ LeMahieu: he can actually play good defense at second base and shortstop. Whether he can hit like them remains to be seen.
Bianchi takes the 37th spot on the Cubs’ 40-man roster, and will presumably get a chance to make the club out of Spring Training. If he doesn’t – and Darwin Barney’s presence (hopefully as the middle infield backup) suggests he won’t – he’ll provide depth at AAA, and look to re-establish himself.
There’s not a huge upside here, but there’s virtually no downside. This is the kind of move you’d like to see the Cubs making while they enjoy such a favorable waiver position (read: they were crappy in 2011, so now they get an early shot at guys like Bianchi).