Cubs Sign Infielder Chris Valaika to a Minor League Deal, Invite Him to Spring Training

chicago cubs logoThe Chicago Cubs have signed former Marlins infielder Chris Valaika to a minor league contract, per Ken Rosenthal, and invited him to Spring Training.

The signing, as minor league deals usually are, is a low-risk, low-upside move. Valaika, 28, is a light-hitting 28-year-old middle infielder who has had a couple of cups in the bigs, but hasn’t found any long-term success. He offers depth where the Cubs have only a little (presumably, Javier Baez will start at short at Iowa and Arismendy Alcantara will start at second, but, if the Cubs suffer an injury in the middle infield, I’d imagine they’d rather not be forced to bring up a youngster if the timing isn’t otherwise right).

This particular signing, though, has an additional interesting layer. If Valaika’s name sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because Valaika was one of several Marlins players who had run-ins with former Marlins hitting coach Tino Martinez. Ultimately, Martinez resigned, and it became something of a he-said, he-said, but the disputes arose out of Martinez perhaps being too gruff, and some Marlins players not being willing to help pick up baseballs (again, he-said, he-said, and we’ll probably never know precisely what happened).

I’ll have a bit more on minor league signings tomorrow, but the Cubs are making an early push to fill up the middle of the infield with some journeyman depth. It’s interesting.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

107 responses to “Cubs Sign Infielder Chris Valaika to a Minor League Deal, Invite Him to Spring Training”

  1. mlbfan

    Scrub a dub dub now there are more scrubs on the Cubs!

  2. Jeff

    Someone needs to take Darnell McDonald’s spot on the roster. Why not another aaaa player. All part of Theo’s magical plan.

  3. Johnnie A

    Sounds like Darwin Barney without the glove. How exciting!

  4. MichiganGoat

    Lovely Brett reports a minor league of the kind that happens with every team over and over yet people decide to jump on here and complain about picking up a AAAA player to fill out the MiLB rosters, and uses this signing yell at Theo for not producing a winner. Amazing.

    1. hansman

      This. The overreaction to minor league deals is fun.

      1. MichiganGoat

        OMG we signed a guy to ride the line at AAA, WTF Theo is this the plan?

        1. mlbfan

          I heard that Theo wants a KFC in the Cubs clubhouse

    2. BT

      Hey man, with all the other superstars signing at a ferocious clip, it’s embarrassing the Cubs can only manage a Valaika signing. Beside, how can anyone else tell you are “telling it like it is” if you don’t have a smart ass remark about every small signing that every team makes?

      1. MichiganGoat

        And which teams have been signing free agents at a “ferocious clip” at this point in November? None this is what teams do prior to the Winter Meetings, but go ahead and complain over this signing.

        1. BT

          I think, perhaps, you misread the intent of my post. Completely.

          1. MichiganGoat

            Possibily if that was sarcasm then yes, if not then no I don’t understand what you are saying.

            1. BT

              Well, given the fact that zero superstars have signed, it’s only November, and everything I said in the second sentence of my comment, I thought the sarcasm was pretty clear.

              1. MichiganGoat

                Mea culpa it’s hard to see the sarcasm among all the bile

                1. BT

                  Just trying to head them off at the pass. Clearly it didn’t work.

                  1. Fishin Phil

                    We really do need a sarcasm font.

              2. Castro to Barney to Chance

                Good rule of thumb is just not to engage.

    3. mlbfan

      Don’t worry the master plan is working well…. the kids are on their way from the lower levels of the minor leagues LOL. Lets put all our hope in some kids in the minors.

      Also, Ricketts said that lengthy renovations will give the Cubs a world series trophy…..umm ok

      1. BT


        1. mlbfan

          Jumbo trons and a comfy clubhouse brings championships

          1. BT


      2. MichiganGoat

        Yes let’s get all twisted and angry about a meaningless minor league signing, the types of signs that every single team in baseball is doing right now. Yeah this is all about Ricketts and Theo giving up. Stupid fans saying stupid shit I really need to increase my bullshit script to hide more of these dumbass comments.

        1. Brains

          careful or goat will blow a gasket from st. louis.

        2. MichiganGoat

          Hmmm more empty white space below my post, I’m going to have to fix this bullshit blocker that I created.

          1. DarthHater

            At least I don’t have to worry about Goat seeing anything I post any more. :-P

            1. Brains

              you’re in his empty wife space

            2. MichiganGoat

              Except your Sith powers cannot be ignored.

              1. Brains

                i’ve gotten pretty good at engaging you guys on your terms B)

              2. MichiganGoat

                If anybody on here is good at writing scripts/code let me know so that I can find away to do something else with my blocked script than leave a ton of blank white space. Contact me on twitter.

                1. Brain

                  yeah, that’s gonna happen

                  1. TOOT

                    But not get off the subject, after the Bears win, is Jay Cutler THE quarterback into the future?

                    1. cavemencubbie

                      I think all the players had water on the knee. :)

                2. TOOT


        3. Mike F

          Yeah I agree with that, you have to look at the whole offseason when it is over, even then it won’t be really known. I guess Goat what concerns some of this is the bull shit of putting back winning or competition leave 500 teams until 2016.

          Something Hoyer and Theo have been saying a lot and it goes unchallenged is the whole line we won’t change or push forward their plan just for the impatience of Cub Fans. That might be one of the most ignorant statements anyone who is intelligent has ever made and they should be completely ashamed of themselves. No organization has been this futile for this long and acting as though expecting them to starting putting a more competitive team that has even a chance at 500 is not too much to ask in year 3. They should be under heavy pressure to do exactly that. Frankly everyone in the organization should take a course in fan ass kissing.

          I agree these minor league signings are nothing to upset about, but some of what is coming out of their mouths is.

        4. mlbfan

          Don’t worry every team has an outfield full of 4th outfielders….Don’t worry every team has a shitty 2nd baseman….Don’t worry every team has a horrid bullpen…..Don’t worry every team has a team of scrubs taking over 3rd base….Don’t worry every team has a starting rotation without an ace (or anything close for that matter)….Don’t worry A JUMBO TRON IS OUR FIRST PRIORITY!!! WS is just around the corner!! Can’t wait for the 20 year olds to bring us to a WS….2018 is just around the corner!

          1. MichiganGoat

            None of that bile your spewing has anything to do with a meaningless signing for AAA depth, if he was signed to start at 2B then fine MOAR LOUD NOISES but this is a stupid reason to get all toxic. But continue on if you complain longer I’m sure Theo will listen.

            1. mlbfan

              Don’t worry you are not alone…every team has their own village idiots that believe every word their front office says…

              1. MichiganGoat

                And I’m sure of pile of asshat dipshits that complain about every minor league signing… but I think we have more than anybody congratulations on joining the herd.

                1. mlbfan

                  Don’t worry….every team has a bad century….right? Remember….just keep waiting for those 20 year olds in the minors…

                  1. mjhurdle

                    you cry this much normally? Or is this just a special occasion?

                    1. MichiganGoat

                      I think it’s the new Cub fan way of saying hello

                    2. Brains

                      he cries when he reads people’s posts, and then he cries that he can’t see them because he installed a script to block him from reading

                    3. mjhurdle

                      It is definitely becoming the new fad.
                      You know it is getting out of control when people are crying this hard about a minor league player.

                    4. Brains

                      well in their defense, theo’s “plan” makes it so that that’s all we have to look forward to for the next 5 years

            2. Andrew

              ya it’s kinda funny this move is the equivalent of a restaurant hiring a new busboy (hell, Valaika might not even be getting paid as much as a busboy). It has no tangible effect on the team, it’s just something the team does to fill out the minor league rosters.

              1. MichiganGoat

                Yet the idiot haters latched on to this to scream loud and stomp their feet.

                1. Brains

                  and we have liftoff. it wasn’t even me this time, but i still enjoy it vicariously.

                2. MichiganGoat

                  There is that empty white space again… anyone else see this?

                  1. Brains

                    too much budweiser for you again goat. gotta keep off that st. louis beer, it’s full of butane.

                    1. mlbfan

                      I didn’t know you can get drunk off water…weird

                  2. MichiganGoat

                    I’m going to have to rework my script it wasn’t suppose to leave empty wife space just delete the bullshit of dipshits. Sorry if the rest of you are seeing empty blank comments I thought it was just on my end. If anybody is good at writing code and scripts let me know maybe you can help.

                    1. Brains

                      “empty wife space”

                    2. mlbfan

                      I think you are lost…here you go —>

                    3. cavemencubbie

                      Hey Goat, maybe you should switch to the Mescal I imbibe. The Cubbies win a WS, the dipshits dissolve into cool-aid and everything mellows out. Life is sweet, life is good. Have a great day.:)

  5. Die hard

    Last I looked one Cub on 40 man roster has WAR above 3 and that’s Castillo– rest mostly 2 or lower … Is that true ? If so that’s another reason to speed up call ups

  6. Eric

    Prelude to a Barney non-tender and a Castro trade?

    1. mlbfan

      I can’t think what is worse….watching Barney hit or watching Valaika…

      1. Eric

        I suspect if Barney moves on, we won’t have to watch Valaika very long.

  7. Mike F

    but I think the guy they trade is Baez and if it goes wrong it will cost Theo and Hoyer their jobs. I do though agree either Castro or Baez goes this offseason, just think it is more likely to be Baez. I wouldn’t trade Baez, could be another young ARod, he’s got that kind of power, but I think they will.

  8. Castro to Barney to Chance

    Interesting ESPN (Insider, unfortunately) article by Dave Cameron on speed outfielders. He goes some length in debunking the myth that speed players lose value at a higher clip than players relying on other skill sets. Looking to similar outfielders, Cameron comes to the conclusion that Ellsbury is likely to put together at least ~25 WAR over the next seven years. At $6M/win, that means he’s a decent bet at 7/150.

    Whether that makes him a right fit for the Cubs, I don’t know (and given the comments re: budget I have my doubts that we’ll be in on him). But interesting to see some analysis on this; “speed players fall apart after 29″ was getting to be too pervasive a meme.

    1. mjhurdle

      makes me wish i was an Insider. I would like to see how he thinks that Elsbury will be worth 4 more WAR in ages 30-37 than he was between ages 23-29.
      Speed guy or not, players typically don’t get better as they age through their 30s.

      Not saying he is wrong, just honestly interested in how he comes to that conclusion.

      1. Castro to Barney to Chance

        Here’s the money quote:

        [i]Overall, these nine players maintained an average of 70 percent of their ages 27-29 WAR/600 rates. If you apply that 70 percent rate to Ellsbury’s 5.8 WAR/600 from his past three seasons, he’d forecast as a 4.0-WAR-per-600-PA player over the next seven years.[/i]

        1. Castro to Barney to Chance

          That’s actually the more favorable analysis — the ~25 WAR I quote above was how he projected when a handful of oft-injured similar players were included.

          1. Mike F

            This will be an interesting player to watch. It is one of quintessential Theo moves in terms of developing and getting the right kid at the right time to the Boston organization. He fits the picky hitter and metric darling thing to the very definition and your points are great. I mean he has more than a two year expiration and may be good for 5 or 6. If they don’t even sniff at him, it would certainly indicate they are going to prolong this losing thing. I think that is the scary part. If you don’t think it matters to your fan base or don’t care, why not go ahead and lose 230 games the next two season and draft 1 back to back? I mean go back now and look at the comments Theo made when he came here about being nice to come somewhere where the emphasis wasn’t on winning every year. It bothered me a great deal. Zero doubt Ellsbury is one of Theo’s clearly minor league great wins and he is an exiting player and a winner. This is a real benchmark.

      2. YourResidentJag

        Here’s his conversation on Twitter: David Cameron ‏@DCameronFG 14 Nov
        I think I’ve officially talked myself into Ellsbury as a free agent value. Even at $120-$140M.

        @DCameronFG Pretty much only needs to average 3.1 WAR/year at $6m/win right? Think he could at least come close to that.

        @KingFelixsCourt Depends on what kind of inflation assumptions you make. But yeah, something in that range

  9. Die hard

    Mark this post– in 2018 Valaika will pinch run for Edwards in a Cub playoff game after Edwards gets hit by a pitch and can’t continue

    1. Castro to Barney to Chance

      A+++ would read again

  10. Abe Froman

    Don’t mind folks not being totally on board with the FO, but if you are really against their moves please offer what you think they should have/should do, based in reality of course, please no 2 year Cano deals in your gameplan.

    1. MichiganGoat

      My bigger issue is that this move has nothing to do with the MLB Cubs this is just organizational filler that every team is doing right now. This is just the MiLB carousel that is very common and regular at this point of the off season.

      1. Abe Froman

        I hear you and get that, since I am on the side of “the plan” an the FO I think the best question to the loudest of doubters is to question what should be happening. You are right this is just a non story (not that Brett shouldn’t report it), in the sense that there shouldn’t be strong opinions on it since it is minor league filler.

        1. Castro to Barney to Chance

          But the internet would let us all down if people didn’t have strong opinions on something like this ;)

      2. jt

        Iowa will have a starting infield of Baez, Villanueva and Alcantara. The ML club has Barney, Castro and Valbuena and can not accommodate all of Olt, Watkins and Murphy. Sometime during the season Bryant should make his way to AAA.
        Why do they need AAA infield filler types unless they plan a trade?

        1. MichiganGoat

          Because he is a filler, he’s nothing more just an filler to add depth. Sure if a trade is made then we have a AAA replacement but being there to ride the pine in case of injury or give players rest is equally if not more likely. Everyone is so starved for news we’re reading more into this minor move.

          1. jt

            he has had 137 MLB PA’s over the last 3 years. Nothing screams that he will get more in 2014 but he still seems to be trying to establish himself rather than wanting sit and collect a check?

    2. Brains

      Cano, 6 years, 160m.

      1. Abe Froman

        And if he gets 200 mil you are ok that the FO put in a bid for what they thought was good value?

        1. Brains

          no if he goes for that much i’ll respect not signing him. but there has to be a serious bid made. he’s the only center of lineup guy on the market for years, he’s a proven veteran, and he’ll be a great mentor for the youngsters coming up. looking for more waiver lines or injured players just to get a deal is below desperate and bordering on negligent.

        2. cubs2003

          A player like Cano will get an ugly contract for the later years, sure. I’d rather overpay for him rather than Ellsbury or Choo, though. There are some benefits to having a big bat help along a young group. That being said, I’m not sure why Cano would want to come here right now.

          1. TOOT

            Whole idea is not to overpay for anybody?.

    3. Mike F

      No I don’t think they need to pursue Cano.

      I think they need to put a big effort on Ellsbury. I would take a long hard look at Kazmir and Johnson. No problem with trading Jeff and Castro, but I would look to get at least one Major League ready talent and impact guy as well as prospects. I think the benchmark in 2014 should be 75 games won and 80-85 in 2015. After 4 years if Theo can’t produce that he has wasted Ricketts money and time.

  11. Johnnie A

    I think this is a great site and I read it almost daily. I am starved for Cubs news like the rest of you but I don’t think this signing was worthy of a headline. I didn’t mean to criticize the FO for this move, it’s an understandable addition for depth at AAA. I guess the frustration is that this is all we have to talk about right now. Can’t we at least sign some new coaches soon?

    1. MichiganGoat

      I like that Brett will mention these minor signings as they happen, but the complaining over meaningless pieces is ridiculous, and no team is busy signing meaningful FA at this point. After the winter meetings we’ll see more of that and then the complaints make sense.

      1. Greenroom


  12. waffle

    not particularly impactful, but it is a move, so durn it, I want to know about it. And I would hate for Brett to have to much time on his hands…

  13. Greenroom

    I cannot believe all of these comments over simple, small, filler signing. Oh wait, yes I can. It is going to be scary around here when the big name free agents start signing, if this is the response to this move. Lighten up folks. Drink a beer. go for a walk. anything that helps you put things in perspective. If Thoyer made the case this guy was going to be our new starting second baseman, but as Brett said and its easy enough to see “He offers depth where the Cubs have only a little (presumably, Javier Baez will start at short at Iowa and Arismendy Alcantara will start at second, but, if the Cubs suffer an injury in the middle infield, I’d imagine they’d rather not be forced to bring up a youngster if the timing isn’t otherwise right).”

    Lighten up, Francis~


    1. Pat

      I see about 5x as many comments of people bitching about negative comments, than actual negative comments.

      1. Brains

        yeah i’ve been saying this for months – lay off the minor leaguers. give them time to mature, grow, evolve. call their careers over once they’ve actually made the bigs and had a couple years. the problem is that we have a hopeless situation and people are grasping for straws, even where they only find chop stocks. right shape, wrong tool.

      2. Greenroom

        Negative is one thing. Everyone can critique what they wish. But to complain about a signing that has no real implications for the major league squad is pretty simple minded. I will add your comment to people who are complaining about people who complain about people who complain. This feels like the movie Inception. Thanks for doing the math, so we have a legitimate, scientific ratio.

        1. Pat

          If it’s not worthy of discussion, then it probably should not have had it’s own post. You can’t have it both ways.

  14. Bret Epic

    So far, I’ve read we have signed Valaika, Eli Whiteside, Aaron Cunningham, Jeudy Valdez, Walter Ibarra, Mat Gamel, and Daniel Canela all after the seasons end. All small moves, but I think we’ll see at least one of these guys make a difference. Throw enough shit at the wall and something is bound to stick, right?

    1. Edwin

      Why would anyone want shit to stick to their walls in the first place? And why are they throwing it? Gross!

  15. rockin' dawg

    Valaika was once considered a decent prospect in the Reds’ system.

  16. TheRiot2

    Valaika signing is interesting Brett? So is watching paint dry I guess. The lack of a legitimate backup SS could bite us.I wouldn’t be opposed in the right scenario to trading Castro.A guy I like a lot is Stephen Drew who could be had with a 3 year deal at 7 M per year.Starlin could bring back some needed pieces and will have many teams lined up for a young SS who is cost controlled. Baez is coming and could be the guy @ SS,but if he fails there there will be SS ‘s to be acquired thru trade or free agency.Would the Cubs make a deal of that type,not likely but it is an intriguing idea just the same.Please don’t think any of our middle infielders being the next anointed SS,certainly not Barney.

    1. Rich H

      Steven Drew was tendered an offer so your 3 years at 7m per is about 20m and probably a year short.

      Now there are moves that make sense while addressing Castro. One would be to trade Shark, ,Castillo, and prospects (probably 3rd base) to Baltimore for Wienters, Hardy, and Bundy. Then if you think Baez is your shortstop of the future tender an offer to Hardy for comp after the season and let him walk.

      Trade Castro to the Pirates or St Louis for your pitching and depth.
      Get in on Tanaka if he is even posted this year.

      Go after a strong OPS guy for the OF like CarGo or Elsbury (if you want to spend).

      Then you just need some relief depth and probably one more SP to totally change the expectations for the 2014 Cubs without stripping our system or spending huge money (other than a Wienters extension).

      1. hansman

        Didn’t Bundy have Tommy John?

  17. Brains

    I hear that Jamie Moyer still has a couple years left in his rubber arm.

  18. Kramden

    These are the types of “moves” that do Epstein & Hoyer more harm than good and don’t help the team 1 iota.

    They should be smart enough to realize this by now.

    1. bbmoney

      Every team makes moves like this based on the needs of their organization so that they have some semblance of depth in the minors.

      This is a complete non-event.

      1. MichiganGoat

        Exactly but the haters just love to hate and get all MOAR over an organizational filler and depth for AAA. This is common MLB practice and every team is filling thier minor leagues right now.

        1. Kyle

          Maybe someone installed some of your magic filtering software on me without my knowledge, but I’m not seeing this influx of haters spamming up the thread that you seem to be. I saw like one guy post like one sentence about it. The Goat’s feeling a bit touchy these days.

        2. itzscott

          Obviously, most fans aren’t as “sophisticated” & “knowledgeable” as you and look at moves such as these as the norm because there’s so many of them and pretty much gauge Epstein & Hoyer’s effectiveness as GMs.

    2. Edwin

      I think these are the types of moves that every single team does every single year. It doesn’t hurt or really help the team, other than depth for the minor leagues.

      He’ll hurt the team about as much as signing Alfredo Amezaga did.

  19. Minor League Signings: Whiteside, Valdez, Ibarra | Bleacher Nation | Chicago Cubs News, Rumors, and Commentary

    […] few weekend minor league signings to share, in addition to the Chris Valaika and Aaron Cunningham deals, which have already been discussed […]

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