chicago cubs logoOver the weekend, the Chicago Cubs signed two minor league pitchers to minor league deals, and each is about as intriguing as those signings get.

First up, there’s righty Carlos Pimentel (if you can say his name without hearing Chris Berman add “loaf” to the end, I envy you), who comes to the Cubs from the Rangers’ system, so it’s a good bet that the Cubs know him well. Indeed, I vaguely recall rumors from midseason that had Pimentel as one of the pitchers on the “B” list of PTBNLs from which the Cubs could choose in the Matt Garza deal if they didn’t opt for Neil Ramirez. Now the Cubs get him for free.

Pimentel has intermittently been a top 30 prospect in the Rangers’ system, but, having signed as a teenager, didn’t quite break through by the time he qualified for minor league free agency (he’s now 23, and turns 24 in December). He’s a tall, thinner guy (6’3″, 180 lbs), and tends to keep it in the low-90s.

The last three years, as Pimentel has reached the AA level (and mostly hung around there), the righty starter has seen his H/9 drop dramatically and his K/9 rise. But he’s also seen his BB/9 tick up to an unacceptably high level – until 2013, when it dropped back to a passable 3.1 per 9. Combine that with the uptick in strikeouts, and he sported an excellent 3.02 K/BB last year at AA. As I said, as far as minor league signings go, Pimentel is about as good as it gets for pitchers. At 24, you’d like to see him serving as depth at AAA next year, and maybe the Cubs’ coaching staff can get him over the hump that he couldn’t quite clear as a Ranger.

Pimentel is currently pitching to mixed results in the Dominican Winter League (20.2 IP, 2.61 ERA, 17 K, 11 BB, 18 H, 1 HR).

The Cubs also grabbed Paolo Espino, whom the Cubs signed away from the Indians’ system. He’ll pitch next season at age 27, so he’ll be competing for a bullpen job in Spring Training, or will wind up as depth at AAA Iowa. Espino is shorter (5’10”), but puts a little something behind it (190 lbs). He’s mostly been a starter, though he did pitch in relief a little bit last year for the Indians’ AAA squad.

Unlike your typical 26/27-year-old minor league signing, I can’t for the life of me figure out why Espino never received a shot in the big leagues. He started playing professionally at age 20, so he’s had plenty of time to progress through the Indians’ system, which he did with aplomb. Although susceptible to the long ball, at every level, Espino has kept his walks down and his strikeouts way up. For his minor league career, his K/BB mark is 3.26, and in 149.2 AAA innings, it’s 3.65. Obviously K/BB isn’t everything, and you can’t scout the numbers, but Espino has the look of a guy who should have received a shot in the big leagues at some point over the last few years. Interestingly, Espino reached AA at just 22, and then bounced back and forth between AA and AAA for the next four years. He didn’t have much AAA success until this season, so maybe that was what was holding him back.

Still, on a minor league flyer? No question it’s worth the minimal investment. FanGraphs did a major league equivalency on this guy, and his AAA time last year projects out to a 2.5 WAR at the big league level over a full season. I wouldn’t read too much into that, other than noting that he pitched well enough at AAA last year to probably deserve a big league look. From there, maybe you have something.

Like Pimental, Espino is currently having mixed results in winter ball, pitching in the Venezuelan Winter League. He’s struck out 38 in 34 innings and walked just 9, but he’s also given up 8 homers. That’s helped him to a 6.35 ERA.

  • Eric

    Brett, how many years is a contract for signings such as these?

    • Brett

      One, unless they make the 40-man and are renewed.

  • David

    As long as they are spring training invitees who could impress and not the long-term solutions to the bullpen, great.

  • hansman

    “(if you can say his name without hearing Chris Berman add “loaf” to the end, I envy you), ”

    I had not done that until you mentioned it. Thanks, jackwagon.

    • Eric

      ^This. Thanks Brett.

      • Tony_S

        Yep, me three, dammit

      • Bolbo161

        Yea. That bermanism is not something I would have done to myself, but now this reinforces the pain. It’s like a disco tune I can’t get out of my head. :-0

        • Blublud


          Or is that John Maddon. Hell, I don’t know.

  • Randy

    I am getting more jazzed by the day.

    • CB

      I mean, how can you not be when talking about Paolo Frickin Espino. Color me stoked!

  • You got bats, we got Wood. Travis Wood.

    I would really like to see the team pursue Willy Mays-Hayes or Pedro Cerrano. They could be solid spring training invites if anything.

    • lakeview Ted

      Guys I dont understand why we are going after Tanaka… he knocks himself out everytime! [img][/img]

    • toby

      What about Roger Dorn? I know he’s only high priced, but the Cubs need a bat at 3rd unless he spikes himself.

      • Bolbo161

        What’s his wife look like? Hmmm, blonde and looking for revenge?

        • Bilbo161

          Wow. Can’t even spell my own name.

          • Bilbo161

            Does that mean I get a demerit for impersonating myself?

            • Bilbo161

              What do you think Bret? Letter of the law? Or spirit.

    • Tony_S

      Secretly in my mind, I’ve been hoping Soler IS Cerrano…

  • CubsFaninMS

    As many “depth signings” as we have, we might as well call our team the Chicago Abyss. I know, I know… I understand the “every team needs these types of signings” bit but I’m a little overanxious to see something exciting happen soon.

    • Mick

      Me too but, any FA signing at this point is when teams overpay. You have to wait a little longer to find the value our FO targets. Some possible value FA’s I could see us targeting are:

      Scott Kazmir
      Roberto Hernandez
      Mike Pelfrey
      Edinson Volquez
      AJ Pierzynski
      Omar Infante
      Jason Kubel

      • http://Bleachernation Lou Brock

        Last guy you want in your clubhouse and dugout is AJ Pierzynski with young guys like Castro and Rizzo.

        • Pat

          I don’t know about that. Say what you will about him as a person, but A.J. always had his head in the game. I wouldn’t mind seeing Castro picking some of that up.

  • papabear

    I still think the cubs could have a better than 500 season this next year – Castro and Rizzo (even though i believe Rizzo isn’t much better than he showed) have good numbers this year. Olt comes around and plays a good 3rd base(250 average and 25 hr). Baez comes up and takes over 2nd base about July and plays well. The outfield is pretty average but if they add a cf in a trade could be alright.

    The Cubs bullpen was better toward the end and the starters were not bad all year. There is a lot of pitching in 2A and 3A that can help for the first time in years. I am optimistic that this team could be average (around 82 wins).

    • Bilbo161

      Yes, my cursed Cubbie optimism is rearing it’s ugly head right now too. I try to tone it down, but there are still 162+ games to go.

  • ssckelley

    I think it is great that the Cubs are still picking apart the Rangers farm system. Carlos Pimentel is an interesting upper level prospect, something the Cubs lack.

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