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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.)

  • Hee Seop Chode

    People are saying low risk high upside, but I disagree with this signing. The risk? He takes up a roster spot and goes down for a 3rd Tommy John. The upside? Great relief on a terrible team.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Nah. The upside is great relief on a decent team in 2014.

      • Hee Seop Chode

        I like where your head’s at Brett. I hope you’re right.

      • ETS

        I think the real upside is flipping for prospects if he turns out to be great, cost controlled relief.

  • Curt

    Trying to see the point of this deal if he won’t be ready until 2014 but he’ll b good if he can make it back, ok Brett cheer us up let’s have 5 reasons for optimism for 2013 still yr doing a great job thanks.

  • hansman1982

    I found this interesting tidbit while searching for split contract rules. Basically he will be on the 40-man and:

    The Minor League salary for a player on a split contract depends on his status the previous season. A player who is on the 40-man for the first time will generally receive an annual Minor League salary along these lines: $12,000 for Class A; $14,000 for Class AA; and $16,000 for Class AAA. For a player who was on the 40-man the previous season, the minimum Minor League salary is $54,500

    • Pat

      There has to be a signing bonus involved. There is no chance he’s relocating to the US to make sixteen thousand in triple a next year.

      • Scotti

        I’m sure he’ll get more than 16k but he also gets to rehab in the Cubs facilities. Remember, his career is over if he doesn’t rehab right.

  • Hee Seop Chode

    What would be an interesting article is summarizing the acquisitions made since new mgnt took over. It seems like they value defensive range, discount home runs and or slugging, and actively love Tommy John survivors.

    I’m not joking about that last one either. I’d love to read about why they love tj guys. What is their data saying?

    • Carne Harris

      They talked about that actually. Can’t find the quote, but they basically said they’re looking for value in the pitching market, where they try to pay for future performance instead of past. Said it’s hard to do and you usually have to take a risk on a guy one way or another, but do you want that risk to be something like a character issue, or Tommy John surgery, which has a 95% success rate.

  • Dustin S

    I’m all for reclamation flippable buy-low candidates…but a 36 year-old coming off of TJ who probably won’t pitch until 2014? At this point I’m waiting for a Phil Niekro and John Kruk signing. I guess now we know how KC and Pittsburgh has felt for the last 20 years.

    • Kansas Cubs Fan

      At this point I’m waiting for a Phil Niekro and John Kruk signing.

      Hahaha that fucking hilarious.

    • Lou

      Remember Theo likes guys coming off TJ surgery–that’s why I was surprised when someone earlier said we shouldn’t trade for Daniel Hudson.

  • daveyrosello

    For chrissakes, can this front office sign just ONE goddamn decent major league baseball player? WTF, they’re only interested in gimps, has-beens, and foreign imports? Moneyball, heh. Patience with Team Theo wearing VERY thin.

    • willis

      No.

    • kranzman54

      Wearing thin or gone? Come on with the language brother

  • mudge

    It seems like people get upset every time the FO does something. Maybe better if they do nothing, in terms of public relations.

    • willis

      No…if they did something that didn’t involve TJ surgery, then it would be a little more acceptable. But every damn thing seems to be injury related. Make a move that actually is a healthy player who can be effective at this level, that’ll shut up a lot of this aggravation.

      • kranzman54

        Yeah but keep in mind, they aren’t signing injured players to three year deals, most of them just 1. This is he brutal rebuild proess, guys you can buy low and sell high.

  • Dan

    So all we do is sign guys off major injuries and guys who suck as much as i love ron santo and may he rest in peace and i mean this as no disrespect to him but i do mean disrespect to cubs management as a frustrated fan we are looking for a third baseman i wouldn’t be shocked if ron santos casket was starting at the hot corner to save some money i get rebuilding i dont get insulting fans intelligence

    • baldtaxguy

      I get periods.

      • baldtaxguy

        Errr…that does not read correctly – rephrase is appropriate here…

        I get “punctuation.”

        As you were…

      • King Jeff

        Heh, that’s funny.

  • BWA

    For everyone complaining about small signings, just stop reading this site and read the newspaper. The paper will only highlight the big stuff and footnote the rest, while it is Brett’s job to give us all the details about everyone. If you can’t see the positives in some of these smaller moves that is fine, but some of them might turn out useful like shawn camp was last year. Just wait till the end of the offseason to complain about no big signings because there is still plenty of offseason left and don’t complain about the little signings cuz they are also necessary and every team makes them.

  • Dan

    The cubs get curtis granderson?! Lmao good one our management would only do that if they wanted to win but they dont maybe if granderson had 2 broken arms torn acl in both legs im sure we would sign him

  • http://bleachernation.com someday…2015?

    Lim and Fujikawa could be a solid setup man to closer combination in 2014.

  • Trueblue

    I really enjoy this site. A lot of differing opinions on the Cubs and especially management. My kids are starting finals right now and it got me thinking about the Cubs and how I would grade them. Pretty complicated with the different levels of minors, draft, trades, and most importantly the big league club. I am very impressed with what they are doing with the farm system, facilities, development, etc… However at the end of the day the Cubs at the big level are what count. I have decided their grade is a D. Losing 101 games really deserves a failing grade but I do like the effort they put forth and awarded them extra credit for this.

    Final Grade D

    • mudge

      Devastating.

  • Serious Cubs Fan

    Is the Chang-Yong Lim signing a straight up signing in hopes to flip him?

    • Kansas Cubs Fan

      Maybe they plan to be competitive come 2014.

      • Serious Cubs Fan

        I really struggle to see the cubs being competitive in 2014. Maybe .500 at best. But its to hard to predicted future. Unless they spend big on a couple free agents next offseason and all the cubs young players take a huge step in there development (I don’t see that happening that quickly) then I don’t see the cubs competing for a playoff birth

        • Kansas Cubs Fan

          Thing’s can still happen this off season, like Anibal Sanchez. Or they could pull of a trade for a bat or a pitcher. Still plenty of time until 2014, hell it’s not even 2013 yet.

  • http://facebook #1cubsfan2013

    i count 43 on roster 40 man roster now so look for the cubs to trade either marmol,sori,garza or,dejesus or all of them fingers crossed that we get some legit talent in return for whoever we trade. whether it be 3RD basemen:Olt,Castellanos,Juan francisco and more OF: Dominic Brown,George Springer,Jackie Bradley and more SP:David Holmberg, Tyler Anderson,Kyle Crick,Trevor Rosenthal,John Gast and more C:Travis d’Arnaud,Gary Sanchez,Austin Hedges,and more.

  • Dan

    How about trading Castro for salary relief and putting barry larkin at short? Lets sign Johny bench and put him behind the bench then we will really suck just like good old jed and theo want

  • gutshot5820

    The one positive thing I can see is that if Theo wants someone, they are well prepared and show interest early. Seems like even though they are shitty as long as people feel they are wanted and the interested party has a plan, they are willing to give Theo a shot.

    • Trueblue

      That’s a very good point.

  • Dan

    I ment behind the plate stupid phone

  • Jealous

    Has anyone seen the 2014 FREE AGENT options? Felix is seriously the ONLY OPTION, the Mariners will extend him 100%, I have been 100% for trading Garza, until just now when I look at our options at SP. The market absolutely sucks. We must continue to fortify our farm to trade away expandable whores to teams like the Diamondbacks who are stupid enough to trade players like Bauer for cents upon the dollar. Sign Felix, extend Garza and Shark. Sign Linceum, re-vamp that fucker. We have Felix, Garza, Lincecum, Shark and Wood. Sign Carlos Gomez and Reynolds.

    SP
    Felix
    Garza
    Linceum
    Shark
    Wood

    Castro
    Almora
    Gomez
    Reynolds
    Rizzo
    Baez
    Soler
    Barney
    Castillo

    • Lou

      Actually, I have a very GOOD feeling the Rays will make David Price available in a trade next year…which sucks because while Red Sox and Yanks won’t be able to get him….neither will the Cubs: :(

    • Joepoe123

      Then we sign a unicorn

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        Only if he’s coming off of horn-replacement surgery.

        • http://windycitysportswonk.blogspot.com/ Myles – WCSW

          Why won’t Theo spend money on healthy unicorns? This front office blows. I say we offer Sprinkle Fluffybottoms a one year deal for like, 40 million hug-gems, that would really put us over the top

  • Spriggs

    Split contract? Sounds sort of like he will be in Lim-bo.

    • Hee Seop Chode

      haha – good one!

  • Dan

    PTheo and jeds perfect lineup for 2013 oh btw we will never compete in any year cuz the rickets wanna line their pockets and to hell with winning right tommy boy?!

    1. CF willie mays (who can barely walk)
    2. 2B jackie robinson (dead)
    3 C johnny bench (same as willie)
    4.LF barry bonds (has been roider)
    5. RF babe ruth (dead)
    6. 3B ron santo (dead)
    7.SS barry larkin (has been sports analist)
    8.1B mark grace (drunk hasbeen)
    9.P henry roengardner (lol) cant u tell how frustrated i am with the direction of the cubs i resort to comedy

    • TheCubsFanFormerlyKnownAsJeff

      “cant u tell how frustrated i am with the direction of the cubs” There’s a direction????

    • Trueblue

      I would have left Santo out since I’m still sad about his passing, but the rest was very funny.

    • Jealous

      You must be really bored my friend

    • Kansas Cubs Fan

      [img]http://narwhaler.com/img/mj/5/troll-detected-MJ5wmA.jpg[/img]

    • Hee Seop Chode

      [img]http://chronicdawgs.northcoastnow.com/files/2011/01/phelps-thumb.jpg[/img]

      “This guys dead!”

      “Cross him off then!”

  • Dan

    Yes a direction to lose forever as long as theo jed and tom are running the team

    • TheCubsFanFormerlyKnownAsJeff

      I wonder how long the wonder twins will stay??? maybe one day they will leave and tell the media that the jackass Ricketts wouldn’t spend the required money to be a top echelon ball team.

  • Brian Peters

    Yo, Dan, there’s a team in LA you can root for since it’s clear you don’t understand/appreciate efforts being made to change the team from the minors up. If you must be a negative nilly, please go to your nearest closet, climb inside, and close the door behind you. We don’t want/need you around these parts.

    • TheCubsFanFormerlyKnownAsJeff

      Yo, Brian, I’m going to call you out here, just for the simple fact that I am tired of guys coming on here telling others to go root for another team because someone states they don’t like the direction of the front office in regards to the big league team.

      Grow up and stop being childish.

      If you want to live in minor league improvement land, fine, stay there, if you want to ignore the big league team while ripping off your customers in ticket prices and are fine with that, I for one, am not!!!!

      • mudge

        Then go root for another team.

        • Brian Peters

          Oh, mudge, you’re in for it now!! Lol!! Didn’t you know the purpose of this site is to blast the Cubs?!? Whaf WILL we do?

      • Devin

        Grow up and stop being childish.

        This is coming from the same man who is calling the FO “The Wonder Twins” and the chairman of the team a jackass.

        Think before you speak.

  • Brian Peters

    Then you can move on, too! No GM in YEARS has paid attention to the minor league system. If it’s not addressed, which it is NOW, the Cubs would continue to rely on signing high-ticket FAs instead of making trades that doesn’t tax you financially or through your system. If you want to reserve the right to cry about the Cubs not spending enough money on folks like Sori, Zambrano, and a host of other flameouts who haven’t led the Cubs to anything but the Toilet Bowl, then I reserve the right to support the plan.

  • TheCubsFanFormerlyKnownAsJeff

    You guys must be 12 years old, oh well, you’ll learn in time. It’s very RUDE of you to tell someone who contributes on here to go be a fan of another team because you disagree with their opinion.

    Nobody has asked you to leave and go root for another team because they don’t like what you say. What gives you the right to be a JERK??

    Why don’t you try being more respectful of others instead of being a douchebag.

    • mudge

      We WISH we were 12 years old.

      • Brian Peters

        I’d settle for 19 or 20. Lol

  • jesus zuniga

    Or maybe hes trade bait.down the road…now he is like another prospect.

  • Brian Peters

    Why don’t YOU be more respectful of this site’s host, Brett Taylor, who busts his hump day in and day out only to hear/read people like you ripping the team he loves so much he’s wiling to make sacrifices so we can get the latest information? I am 46 years old. I’ve been a Cubs fan all my life and will continue to be AFTER they put me in the ground. I don’t have a problem with differing opinions. I have a problem with lunacy that springs from some people’s mouths. Statements such as “you’ll learn in time” are what I’m referring to. What, exactly, will I learn in time, pray tell? That the Cubs aren’t going to make the playoffs again? Well, to my knowledge, no one on the face of the earth was around when the Cubs won the World Series, so I’m not gonna get all butt hurt if they spend the next couple years building a team the right way. As to your comment, “nobody tells you to root for another team,” why would they? Lol. I’m not the one running down the team that this site is dedicated to. One last thing: thank you again, Brett, for all you do, and I’m sorry for all this.

  • Devin

    This signing is a bit of a head scratcher. 36 years old, Tommy John’s, won’t be ready till 2014, takes up a 40 man spot.

    I’m all for flipping guys, but is it worth it to take up a roster spot for the guy? And if they don’t plan on trading him, how much value will they get out of him? How much is left in the tank?

    • DCF

      I couldn’t agree more. It’s hard to see any upside at all that would justify wasting a roster spot on a guy like this. It can’t be that hard to find another a scrap heap bounce back candidate that at least is 10 to 15 yrs younger.
      Even if he turns out to be a fanastic reliever, it would be hard for him to net 1 WAR to even justify a $5 million salary. And he will be a 39 yr old rookie in 2015. That doesn’t offer any trade value at all and doesn’t help the Cubs rebuilding.

      Maybe the FO has thought up some crazy scheme to flip him even before the 2013 season starts and make an easy $100k on that.

      • daveyrosello

        If he’s injured and recovering from TJS, he’ll be on the 60-day DL as soon as he signs later this week. Since the unprotected player draft already occurred last week, additions to the 60-day DL AFTER the draft do NOT count against the 40-man roster. Still a dumb signing IMO, but at least it does not have 40-man implications for the rest of the offseason.

        • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com/ Kyle

          Unless that’s a special rule for which I am unaware, there is no 60-day DL during the offseason.

  • MichiganGoat

    See us Goats are all over from Michigan to Korea – let the assimilation begin!

  • JimHickman28

    Theo Sucks

    • bbmoney

      Thanks for that rivetting commentary. I’m truely on the edge of my seat waiting for what you’re going to say next.

  • JR

    WTF, I get on here this morning and see this is what the Cubs were up to last night. Signing a 36 yr old Korean RP coming off his 2nd TJ surgery? This is getting comical.

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