The Chicago Cubs don’t even have a box outside of which to operate.

According to a report out of Korea, the Chicago Cubs are set to sign right-handed reliever Chang-Yong Lim to a deal. The Korean 36-year-old has been pitching in Korea and Japan since he broke into professional baseball, and is a hard-throwing* side-armer. At the peak of his game, he was one of the most dominant relievers in Japan – indeed, the report notes that he was the 6th best paid player in Japan last year.

The report does not indicate what the terms of the deal are expected to be, but it is likely a minimal investment by the Cubs because …

… Lim had his second Tommy John surgery in July. For that reason, it isn’t particularly conceivable that he’ll be able to pitch until the second half of the season at the earliest. He could be getting a minor league deal (with a major league split – i.e., he gets paid a rate better than the major league minimum if and when he actually pitches in the bigs), perhaps with a club option for 2014 if he shows he’s healthy.

So, odds are this is a roster-neutral, cost-neutral, pure upside signing. If it plays out that way, cool. The Cubs have obviously been doing some serious scouting in Japan, and like the idea of importing some relievers (having already signed Kyuji Fujikawa). If there’s no risk here, why not take a crack on Lim? The Cubs shouldn’t limit their reclamation projects to Stateside pitchers only.

UPDATE: John over at Cubs Den found a different report, which, if my Google Translate is working properly, suggests that Lim’s agreement will indeed be a split major league/minor league deal. It looks like the Tigers, Orioles, Red Sox, and Rangers were also interest in Lim, who isn’t expected to be fully ready to go until 2014 (again, I think I’m reading it that way).

*UPDATE 2 (8:14pm CT): NPB Tracker has his average fastball velocity sliding from the mid-90s in his younger days to just under 90mph this past season. The elbow issues could have something to do with that, but so could his age.

UPDATE 3 (8:30pm CT): I should add that, assuming this is a one-year with option, or a two-year deal, it is probably going to have some scary number attached to it – in the multi-millions. But, if it’s a split contract, you’ll have to keep in mind before you freak: a split deal is essentially a minor league contract. It only costs the major league portion if the guy actually makes it to the bigs. So, while he might get a nice salary on the major league portion of his deal, there’s no risk to the Cubs if he can’t actually contribute.

UPDATE 4 (8:41pm CT): Right on cue, I found a report purporting to be an interview with Lim at the airport as he departed Korea, apparently to come sign his contract with the Cubs. The report (I can’t totally vouch for it, as my knowledge of Korean media is limited) says it’s a two-year, $5 million deal – but it’s a split deal, meaning it’s a minor league contract, and he only gets into the real money when he makes the big league roster. So, as I said: no real risk to the Cubs, but obviously they must believe there’s a fair chance he’ll make it back from this second surgery and be a contributor if his big league salary is going to be non-negligible. Some bits from that report:

Lim said he has been rehabbing his elbow for the past month in South Korea since his release from the Swallows. Lim is expected to remain out of action until July next year.

“The Cubs expect to see me back on the field in 2014, rather than next year,” Lim said. “Once the deal is signed, I will move to Arizona, where the Cubs operate a rehab center. My goal is to continue to rehab and get back on the mound by mid to late season next year.” …

Park Yoo-hyun, Lim’s agent, said the Cubs have been the most “active” suitor of Lim since September and the team laid out detailed plans to help Lim’s rehab. He also said other teams had offered more money than the Cubs, but the Chicago team said it would put a Korean interpreter and Lim’s personal trainer on the payroll.

UPDATE 5 (9:14pm CT): Obviously this all looks legit, and I wouldn’t go quite this far into the updates if I thought this was a straight-up hoax. But it’s worth throwing up the tiny cautionary roadblock: there is absolutely nothing about this Stateside. I have no reason to doubt the Korean reports, but I also have no personal knowledge that tells me that they’re spot on. We’ll get more clarity soon, but this is obviously not a signed contract yet.

(h/t to our own BN’er Korean Goat, who was relaying reports on this earlier today.)

  • Njriv

    What the fark? This came out of nowhere.

  • TheCubsFanFormerlyKnownAsJeff

    What the hell are we doing?????

  • Kyle

    I’m intrigued and impressed. The funky delivery should buy him a little time while the league gets used to him, and it’s not exactly a long-term investment.

  • fromthemitten

    is Korean Goat Michigan Goat’s cousin?

    • Korean Goat

      No, she is my wife 😀

  • Carew

    I find this soon-to-be signing very interesting, and quite cool, and I don’t know why.

    • Kyle

      Youtube a video of him pitching. He’s got a bunch of different release points and some of them cause some really cool, funky, deceptive movement on his pitches.

      • Carew

        His 2-seamer was really movin’ holy crap…pretty sure it was a 2-seamer

  • Luke

    I love watching side arm pitchers work.

  • Tyler

    Hey, why not. It’s not like we have anything to lose.

    • TheCubsFanFormerlyKnownAsJeff

      We have the 40 man roster but these wonder twins keep claiming guys off the waivers and signing guys. They have spent more time juggling roster spots than a pair of clowns in the circus. Quit messing around with mediocre talent and go get some quality players.

  • Frank

    I was started to get excited until I got half way through the post. Now I can’t stop laughing. Is there anyone that we signed this winter that isn’t coming off of a surgery of some kind. I know it’s common nowadays and I know in this case there is no risk but this is so sad,it’s funny.
    We may not lead the league in much this year but I think we have a good chance to lead in d.l. appearances.

    • DarthHater

      Maybe we should get Tommy John to be our pitching coach. 😉

      • Myles – WCSW

        He used to be a manager, so it’s not as far-fetched as it sounds :)

  • Myles – WCSW

    This is awesome. Guys like this are almost always worth a WAR in the first year.

    • Brett

      Of course, in his case that first year might be 2014. :)

  • Bren

    Whats the point? He can’t even play for a year, by which he’ll be 37, why waste the airfare?

    • Brett

      Here’s an Asian-import reliever who did pretty well last year at 37.

      • Bren

        right, but he’s been here since he was 34

        • Brett

          Asian-imported pitchers tend to do *better* in their first couple years in MLB. The point was that there’s no reason to say on a blanket basis that Lim can’t hack it. We have absolutely no basis on which to say that at this point, including his age. No one’s claiming he’s Craig Kimbrel. But there’s no risk in the move. So why not?

    • Myles – WCSW

      No downside, some upside. The reason all of these small moves are happening.

  • cjdubbya

    Safe to say the FO went out on a Lim with this signing…

    • TheCubsFanFormerlyKnownAsJeff

      Finally, someone with a sense of humor!!

    • Brett

      Nailed it.

    • Eric

      So are you saying the sexual assaulted this guy? I mean to go out ON a Lim, would mean they would mount him, and do, not so nice things to him.

      Brett maybe you’re right, maybe they did “nail” him. er, it.

    • michaelkraz

      He’ll probably cause limsanity in Chicago, then sign with the Houston Astros.

  • another JP

    The reaction to this signing will be a carbon copy of the Rosario news. I guess the fact that Lim has been a successful pitcher and the Tigers, Rangers, Os, & RSox interest doesn’t mean squat. We’re going to be a 90+ loss team so let’s be miserable.

    It’s just baseball and we’re going to get better. How bout we enjoy the ride to the top?

    • Brett

      “We’re going to be a 90+ loss team so let’s be miserable.”

      That sounds like a lot of folks’ attitude about the Cubs right now. I’d rather go with, “the Cubs are going to be a 90+ loss team, so I’ll accept that now, and then find joy wherever I can find it. Why would I want to be miserable for another year?”

      • CubFan Paul

        that was a good point that you made in the podcast. I had kind of realized it myself after the first few signings. As long as we get more Vizcainos & Villanuevas between now & July i’m fine with the plan continuing in 2013.

      • TheCubsFanFormerlyKnownAsJeff

        What would get me excited is if I checked in and read the headlines, ” Cubs trade for Yankee’s Granderson.” Come on, give me something to get excited about. I’m fine with the Baker and Fieldman additions, Stewart and Schierholtz are two low cost, possible high upside moves.

        Give me something to sink my teeth into and say, Yes, a step forward.

        I’d take an outfield of Soriano, Granderson and DeJesus.

        • Kyle

          I don’t know if I’d call Schierholtz “high upside.”

          He’s more “low floor.” He’s probably not going to embarrass you with a sub-replacement performance and he’s cheap. But I don’t see a ton of upside.

          • Kyle

            “high floor,” rather.

            • Hee Seop Chode

              Would Granderson be more low risk or high ceiling?

              • TheCubsFanFormerlyKnownAsJeff

                He hit 43 HR’s & 106 RBI’s last year and plays center field, what did we put out there in CF last year? Just saying

                • TC

                  He also hit .232 with a .319 OBP and struck out in nearly 29% of his plate appearances, while being, by all metrics, really bad in center field. He’s a damn good ballplayer, but he’s probably only a 3 win player next year, and a free agent afterwords. Not exactly worth the haul it would take to get him

                  • TheCubsFanFormerlyKnownAsJeff

                    Yep, he’s a left handed Soriano and I wouldn’t give up a bunch to help the poor little Yankees get to 189M next year, plus he’s in the last year of his contract and he’s a Chicago boy. Just a thought, throw him in the line-up behind Soriano, who knows, maybe this teams surprises itself the next two years until the rest of the kids get here.

    • cjdubbya

      I like this signing quite a bit. Even if it takes til 2014, it’s another undervalued guy and if it works out, we all get to watch a sidearm guy tear up the competition, Lim from Lim.

      Sorry, could not resist the pun again.

  • Frank

    Where exactly does he fit into”the plan”? He will be 37 at the earliest when he pitches,so he isn’t a future”core player” he would be “flipable but what do get for a 37 year old with arm problems? Oh well,no risk just thinking out loud.

    • cjdubbya

      No, not for the long term future but in 2014. Cheap way to bridge the gap. Maybe it works!

      • Brett

        It still remains possible that the Cubs are actually decent in 2014 – and if he’s healthy and effective, that’d help.

  • gutshot5820

    I sincerely hope these undervalued picks work out. i was just thinking do 5-7 of these guys for $12M a year equal one decent impact player worth $12-15M a year?

    • Brett

      It’s worth asking – though guys like Lim (presumably) and Rosario are more like $500K (at most) guys. So it’s like 20 to 30 of them before you start getting into the $12 to $15 million range. 20 to 30 lottery tickets ain’t bad when you’re rebuilding anyway.

  • Patrick W.

    But what continent does he look like he comes from?

    • Eric

      Asia. That’s where Korea is located.

      • Brett

        He was making fun of an earlier, bizarre comment.

        • Patrick W.

          Yeah, sorry… just a little levity around one of the weirder things I’ve seen posted here.

  • JJ

    36 or 37 years old is less of an issue for a pitcher when he has yong lims :)
    (ok that was pretty bad, I’ll admit it)

    • Brett

      Guys – there’s a Lim-it to the number of puns I can take.

      • no-one

        Once upon a time in merry olde England while there were still kings:

        One king became very upset with his court jester who made a pun of everything the king would say.

        Finally reaching the point of utter frustration the king ordered the jester to be hung.

        While the jester was on the rack with a noose around his neck waiting for the hangman to pull the lever, the king was reconsidering all the good times the jester provided and had a change of heart and therefore ordered the hanging to stop.

        While the jester was still on the rack, the king stated that he wouldn’t hang the jester only if the jester would stop making puns of everything the king said.

        The jester thought about the kings offer for a second and said “no noose is good noose”.

        • Brett

          I thought that was going to end with the jester going Lim-p.

          • no-one

            I wanted to leave it hanging….

            • no-one

              What? no respnose to that last remark.?

              I was positive that someone would bite

  • Frank

    I like your thinking Brett. There were several bright spots In the 101 loss season last year. We had Barney’s gold glove,rizzo’s solid season. Soriano’s unexpected bounce back and an improved farm system. If we can find good in a 101 loss season,it ought to find joy in a 90-95 loss season.

  • B_Scwared

    Brett, any idea why there is a delay with some of these articles posting on flipboard? I’ve noticed a few times where I’m on that and make my to the actual site and there are new articles. It is pretty recent that this has started happening.

    • Brett

      Which board are you using? The RSS feed, the Twitter page? The RSS (Blekko) is showing up right away for me. I’m not a power Flipboard user, so I may not know the answer. The site’s RSS feed seems to be working OK.

  • Need mee owner

    Round eyes canto pitch?

    • Patrick W.

      what the heck is going on tonight?

    • Brett

      Is that a racist comment? How could there be two in one night that I’m not sure whether they’re racist or not?

  • Joepoe123

    At my school there is a Korean exchange student and he told me abt this signing like at 5 and said this guy is a late inning relief pitcher …looks like they are looking for a set up man once fukijimia becomes closer after a marmol trade

  • Kyle

    Velocity shot in recent years. Now a little less exciting:

    • Brett

      I posted that first, foo.

      • Kyle

        I go to the box for two minutes, and I feel shame.

        • college_of_coaches

          Greatest. Movie. Ever. (Well, for a hockey movie.)

  • Kyle

    I *think* split deals have to go on the 40-man. In his case, he could go on the 60-day DL as soon as it opens up in the spring, but our roster crunch for the next few months may be getting even weirder.

    • Brett

      I think it can go either way (you make more money on the 40-man) – which is to say, I think it’s a negotiated thing.

      • Hee Seop Chode

        I bet Hee Seop saw this guy in high school. I wish I could talk to him now….

  • AP

    I’m not an expert, but it looks like the Cubs have decided that an inexpensive way to make themselves relatively competitive next year is to bulk up the bullpen. They did have a ton of blown saves this past year, so maybe they figure by having a strong ‘pen, not as many games will get away from them. Just a thought…

  • Dan

    I think we all know what comes next!

  • cubchymyst

    Like the move, I see it as a positive that he doesn’t have to be added to the 40 man till possibly half way through the year. Depending on how the cubs are doing there might be a significant 40 man shuffle at that point and it will be nice to have a possible high value replacement piece waiting (even if it is only for the bullpen).

  • Segal27

    Good move I guess? I don’t know haha it came out of nowhere, maybe he is friends with Fujikawa?

    • Brett

      Eh – played on different teams, come from different countries. I doubt it.

      • Diamondrock

        Indeed. Japan and Korea often haven’t been on the best of terms. There’s the bad blood from the last WBC, plus all the… Things… That happened. In history.

        That said, Lim’s a professional who has played in Japan, so I don’t expect there would be any problems. Even though they probably aren’t acquainted it’s possible they’ll hit it off if they end up playing together. If nothing else, Lim probably speaks pretty good Japanese.

  • Bazfan1234

    Looks like another value, high ceiling signing but seriously, are the Cubs trying to set a record with the most interpreters in a dugout?

    • Luke

      I think LA has that one locked up.

      I seem to remember them fielding a starting rotation a few years back in which every pitcher spoke a different native language.

  • DarthHater

    Does this mean the Cubs are going to have Lim-sanity?

    • Brett

      As long as he doesn’t blow up like a bLimp while rehabbing.

      • mudge

        He has a subLiminal pitching motion.

  • crazyhorse

    WOW 36 year old that might not pitch sounds familar but the upside is -he has different delivery points and he is a rookie and ….. welll and

  • ripitrizzo82

    His pitches rise like a womens soft ball player