Amidst the clamor of the final few hours of the Winter Meetings, including an outfielder trade, the Chicago Cubs picked up a couple of minor leaguers, providing some much-needed depth.
First, in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft, the Cubs grabbed 27-year-old catcher Charles Cutler from the Pirates’ organization. Because it was the minor league phase, the Cubs get Cutler free and clear, and he’s instantly the favorite for starts at AAA Iowa this year. Right now, he’ll be competing with Eli Whiteside, and will fall in the top four on the depth chart overall, which is kind of amazing for a minor league phase draftee.
Cutler has caught at AA for the past four years, failing to advance to AAA in the relatively catching-rich Pirates’ system in the latter two of those years (he originated in the Cardinals’ system). He’s 27, which makes his production unimpressive, especially considering the level repeating. But it’s really good production: .295/.388/.408 over 856 plate appearances at AA. He’s got a lefty bat, and he takes a ton of walks: in his career, he’s walked 172 times against just 179 strikeouts. I can’t find too much on his skills as a catcher, but I’ve got to assume they’re lagging. Otherwise, it’s very hard to figure out why a guy who’s been so solid with the bat has stalled out at AA. Hell, he’s never even really been given a starting job in the minors.
The Cubs also signed pitcher Tommy Hottovy to a minor league deal, according to Chris Cotillo. Hottovy, who was also invited to Spring Training, is a 32-year-old lefty who has never really gotten a shot in the bigs. He was a long-time Boston farmhand, so there’s the obvious connection there. The numbers aren’t overwhelming, though the K rate ticked up quite a bit when he switched over a relief role in the upper minors. There’s no risk here, since it’s a minor league deal, but I don’t see a ton of upside unless something changed and the scouts are suddenly raving about him.