Today is minor league deal day for the Chicago Cubs, it seems. They’re close to inking catcher Jason Jaramillo, and they’ve now announced two other signings: pitcher Manny Corpas (whose signing we’re already knew about, but now we know it was a minor league split deal, rather than a guaranteed Major League deal (I knew it seemed strange that he would get a guaranteed big-league deal (just sayin’))), and pitcher Andy Sonnanstine, who was recently non-tendered by the Tampa Bay Rays.
Sonnanstine, who turns 29 in March, has not been a particularly effective pitcher in his five big league seasons. He sports a career 5.26 ERA (82 ERA+), 1.394 WHIP, and a meager 5.7 K/9. At least he doesn’t walk anyone – just 2.3 walks per nine innings.
Sonnanstine’s theoretical value is in his ability to pitch both in the rotation and out of the pen, but, with the Cubs, he’s almost certain to be competing, initially, for a bullpen spot only (if he earns it, he could be the Cubs’ 7th or 8th starter, should it come to that). And the good news there is that he’s a much better pitcher out of the pen than out of the rotation: in relief, he’s got a 4.40 career ERA and 1.36 WHIP (which numbers would look even better in the NL Central) in 86 innings, most of which have come in the last two seasons. And, coming out of the AL East, Theo Epstein is probably very familiar with what Sonnanstine has left to offer. If there was absolutely nothing worth taking a chance on here, Epstein wouldn’t have taken the chance.
It’s unreasonable to get excited about a minor league deal for a guy with terrible career numbers, but it’s fair to let the corners of your mouth turn upwards ever so slightly. Mine are with the Sonnanstine signing.
Sonnanstine, like Corpas, receives a non-guaranteed, split minor league deal, which is to say, it’s not a guaranteed deal, and he’ll make one rate if he makes the big league club out of Spring Training, and one rate if he’s sent to the minors. It’s about as no-lose as a contract gets for a reclamation type like Sonnanstine (or Corpas). They provide depth and alternative options, depending on how the rest of the offseason rounds out. Nicely done, Theo and Jed.
These minor league, high upside, cheap type deals could save the Cubs a fair bit in 2012. The question, of course, remains: where exactly is that saved money going to be spent?