At last, minor league signings on which have neither many nor cloyingly positive thoughts. Positive, sure. But your teeth won’t hurt.
Today the Chicago Cubs signed a trio of players to minor league contracts, and invited the players to Spring Training: outfielder Ryan Kalish, infielder/outfielder Ryan Roberts, and catcher John Baker.
Kalish, 25, was non-tendered by the Red Sox earlier this offseason, and, although I wrote about him as an interesting non-tender, I didn’t see him as the kind of guy the Cubs should go out and sign to a big league deal. That said, minor league deal and a Spring Training invite? Sure, why not? There’s an obvious front office connection here, Kalish having been drafted by the Red Sox back in 2006, and he bats lefty and can play all over the outfield. Over an exceedingly limited sample in the bigs, Kalish hasn’t don’t much (.243/.293/.351), and even his AAA slash line leaves a lot to be desired (.262/.328/.406). That said, he’s just 25, and the Red Sox obviously thought highly enough of him, at least as a bench guy, that they were bringing him up at 22. As AAA depth, he’s perfectly fine. Maybe the Cubs can tap some of that youthful upside. Indeed, depending on how the rest of the outfield shakes out (and depending on how long Nate Schierholtz stays with the Cubs), Kalish could find himself in one of the many outfield platoons in Chicago this year.
Roberts, 33, was once a flash-in-the pan star for the Diamondbacks (3.7 WAR in 2011), but he’s fallen off into something of a utility role in his recent years with the Diamondbacks and Rays. He can play at third or second, or even in left field if you need it, and he’s hit lefties considerably better than righties over the course of his career (.266/.341/.444 against lefties). With Luis Valbuena, Donnie Murphy, Junior Lake, Mike Olt, Josh Vitters, and Justin Ruggiano in the fold, I’m not sure there’s going to be a bench job for Roberts to win when all is said and done, but he’s adequate depth. If the Cubs moved Murphy and decided to platoon Luis Valbuena and Roberts at third, it wouldn’t absolutely kill them. (Well, given the expectations and everything.)
Baker, 32, could have the distinct privilege of battling Eli Whiteside for third on the Cubs’ catching depth chart. After a breakout year in 2009 with the Marlins at age 28, it’s been all downhill with the bat for Baker. His .219/.301/.259 line over that stretch evokes Koyie Hill with on-base skills, but at least Baker can take a walk. The metrics say he’s a quality defensive catcher, which I think he’d have to be to still be landing jobs at this point. This a no-harm, no-foul signing, not unlike the Whiteside deal. The Cubs are completely bereft of catching talent at the upper levels of the minors (leading to the selection of Charles Cutler in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft), so additions like Baker are necessary.