Repeatedly this offseason, I’ve found myself discussing a minor Cubs signing – be it a minor league free agent or an undrafted free agent – with much more excitement than you’d typically associate with those kinds of deals. Maybe it’s the continued increase in available information, or the rose-colored tinge to my prospect-related glasses under the current regime, but it feels like the front office is picking up some nice high upside, no risk pieces – Dayan Diaz, Johermyn Chavez, Jesse Hodges, Matt Iannazzo, and others. (Of course, maybe it’s more of a statement of the state of the farm system before the new guys took over …. )
Well, add another to the list: 24-year-old Yeiper Castillo, whom the Cubs have signed to a minor league deal.
The front office is likely very familiar with Castillo, as he was a long-time Red Sox farmhand, having been signed out of Venezuela back in 2005. He worked his way up the Red Sox’s organizational ladder, putting up good numbers along the way, but stalled out in recent years at the A/High-A level. But then he had shoulder surgery two years ago, which wiped out his entire 2011 season. His comeback last year went decently – 3.60 ERA and 1.30 WHIP over 137.2 innings between A and High-A – but he was eligible for free agency after the year.
Of more note to the Cubs, probably, is how well Castillo pitched this Winter in Venezuela: 2.77 ERA, 30 K, 14 BB, and 39 innings. Interestingly, he pitched almost exclusively in relief (one and a half innings per appearance, on average) after being a starter the rest of his career. Maybe the Cubs saw something they liked about his ability in the pen. We’ll see what his role is this year.
There were reports in December that Castillo had signed with the Oakland A’s, so … I don’t know what to make of that. Perhaps he signed, and then had his contract nullified? Perhaps those reports were erroneous? Either way, he showed up on the Cubs’ transaction wire as having signed with the Cubs back in December, and is presently found on the Tennessee Smokies roster.