- Eli Whiteside was, at one time, a decent back-up catcher with the Giants. That time was brief and several years ago, and Whiteside is now a 34-year-old backstop who hit .187/.242/.280 last year at AAA for the Rangers. The Cubs grabbed him on a minor league deal, and he’ll get a Spring Training invite, too. At most, Whiteside is the third catcher on the depth chart (behind Welington Castillo and whomever the Cubs get to be his backup), and will see time at AAA Iowa. The Cubs’ system is extremely thin at catcher, so there should probably be a couple more moves like this on the way.
- Jeudy Valdez is a former Padres prospect (there’s your Hoyer/McLeod/Madison connection) who hit .251/.300/.406 at AA last year while playing shortstop. He’s just 24, so this is more in the way of a true minor league signing. Valdez provides middle infield depth, while also offering the teeniest, tiniest possibility of upside. (Signing per Chris Cotillo.)
- Water Ibarra is another middle infielder, albeit one who can play all over. He’s light with the stick – career .271/.313/.364 minor league line – but offers versatility. Ibarra just turned 26, and figures to be depth at AAA, though he’s getting an invite to Spring Training. Together with Valdez and Valaika, that’s a huge amount of middle infield depth to be adding in the upper minors on these kinds of deals. The Cubs have Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara already holding down those spots at AAA as starters, together with Logan Watkins mixed in somehow. They’ve got Christian Villanueva and Mike Olt to figure spots for, and a big league roster that features Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney, Luis Valbuena, and Donnie Murphy. It’s fair to wonder if there is an expectation that, this offseason, some of those numbers will dwindle. I guess “expectation” is probably too strong of a word – I think it’s fair to say that everyone recognizes the possibility that moves could be made.
A reminder for the uppity among you: every team in baseball signs a dozen or more minor league free agents throughout the offseason. It’s part of having a complete minor league system (and having some vets mixed in with the youngsters, which helps protect against untimely promotions and also offers some mentoring opportunities). Your jokes about the Cubs now making the World Series are not only hacky and unfunny, they also miss the point.