Cubs Sign Ryan Kalish, Ryan Roberts, and John Baker to a Minor League Deals

chicago cubs logoAt 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.

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

125 responses to “Cubs Sign Ryan Kalish, Ryan Roberts, and John Baker to a Minor League Deals”

  1. waffle

    you could really argue (as above) that Tanaka not posting is good for us…Potentially more suitors for Shark.

    I know this has been discussed but I forget…what will be the deal w/ Tanaka next year? Same or not?

  2. Charlie Brown

    It’s actually a report that Gammons did a week ago. Some one messed up badly over on LoneStar

  3. Lou Brock

    Three team deal that should work with Royals, Pirates, and Cubs.
    Pirates get 1B Billy Butler and Schierholtz.
    Royals get Samardzija, G. Sanchez, and A. Cabrera
    Cubs get Zimmer, Glasnow, and Hochevar.

  4. rockin' dawg

    I’m fine with the Cubs making low-key moves for now. Here’s two more I would like to see:

    1) Sign Andrew Bailey to a two-year deal. I know he’s hurt, but we’re not competing in 2014 anyway. He’s only 29, has much better peripherals than Axford, should come cheaper, and he’ll be back by May/June. He was one of the best young closers in baseball a couple years ago and could be a key arm in a very good bullpen in 2015.

    2) Bring back Tyler Colvin on a minor-league deal. He’s still just 27-28 years old and was one of the Cubs’ top prospects a few years ago. We could use an OF with some pop. Give him one last shot in 2014 along with Vitters and Brett Jackson. Why not?

    1. alex

      I could definetly dig both those moves, but then again colvins batting approach is exactly what the organization is trying ton rid themselves, so not sure they would go down that route. However, if there is one glaring, undisputable mistake the FO has made this far, it has too be the Stewart colvin trade. Colorado got two players that at least played for them in lamheu and colvin, while we got nothing from weathers, who I haven’t even heard of since the trade and probably isn’t even in the system, and an oft injured cry baby. Wouldn’t hurt in my mind to resign him to a minor league deal to make amends for that deal, for whatever it’s worth really.

      1. MichiganGoat

        Please not Colvin, he couldn’t succeed in Colorado and wasn’t very good with us, but too people remember that little stretch where he looked good and therefore people think he’s got potential. We have no need for him.

        1. Bret Epic

          He was dreadful during his short sample size in the MLB this year, but his AAA numbers weren’t bad and his 2012 numbers were pretty good. Seems like he might’ve worked on his walk rate this year in AAA-.275/.377/.480. http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/c/colvity01.shtml and http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=colvin001tyl

  5. pfk

    You know what via exciting? I really think that next year at this time there’s a good chance the Cubs will be big players in the FA market. I like the way they’ve played it so far. My hunch is that next August both Baez and Bryant will be called up and do well. And that means it will be time to start looking to start going for it in 2015. It has been so difficult to go through the rebuild but they are on the right track and finally our patience will pay off! I’m really excited for the second half of 2014. Patience is a virtue!

    1. josh ruiter

      If your thought is that 2015 is go for it…then you sign players when they are available. And they ought to begin now with guys like Choo. Add another piece or two next year…its bit by bit…not all at once.

    2. rockin' dawg

      I’m really starting to get on board with that, as well. I’ve come to the conclusion that the FO is not going to make ANY moves that don’t fit the rebuild. In other words, they are not going to spend money to bring in players over 30. They won’t sign Choo because he’s 31, too expensive, and costs us a high 2nd round draft pick. Trading for a young OF like Domonic Brown might fit the plan, but who do we give up? Same with Kemp.

      The ONLY big dollar move that makes sense is to go hard after Tanaka. And like you implied above, it would make even more sense for 2015 than 2014. Either way, I think the Cubs will go all-in and I think (hope) they’ll get him.

      1. rockin' dawg

        (My reply was to pfk)

      2. pfk

        I find it really exciting and it’s good to see others who feel the same. We are in the final phase of The Plan and I can see it working. we just need to hold in there a little longer. As one who has waited 60 years, it’s worth it. Oh is it ever!

        1. Kyle

          I *really* hope this isn’t the final phase.

        2. Hawkeye

          Explain how you see this working? You may be excited of the plan, but how have we seen any evidence “it” is working.

        3. roz

          They’ve only been here for 2 years, this is hardly what could be considered the “final phase.”

          1. TOOT

            That’s absolutely right. No only that, you really can’t say 2 years. Why? Because the FO and coaching staff had to be asssembled and evaluated. That didn’t just majically happen the day Theo was hired! You can really make the point that they have really only had 1 1/2 years trying to turn the ship around. And yes, it is hardly the “final phase.”

          2. pfk

            Well, “final phase” may be putting it too strongly. What I meant is that I think by August you will start to see things swing in a very positive direction. I think you will see 2 or 3 of the young players come up and impress and you will see others in the minors progressing nicely. With that will come a sort of verification that The Plan is working and it will then be time to start looking seriously in the off season at some free agents for 2015. The general mood will get positive and we will start getting excited at the level of competitiveness to the point that we are not only excited about 2015 but we will be able to see us being super competitive in 2016 and beyond. Right now, they aren’t going after bold moves – just picking up pieces here and there to tweak the club by taking chances or flyers on high upside players. To be sure, there is a good chance we will probably be a bad club for the first half of the year but come late July, I think you’ll see things headed in an upward direction. Plus, I think we will see both Castro and Rizzo improve greatly over last year. For me, I’m excited because I can see what we have been waiting for and what we have been told will happen – start happening.

            1. rockin' dawg

              Yes, you have to look at the big picture and the near future (2015) looks something like this:

              1B Rizzo
              2B Baez
              SS Castro
              3B Olt
              LF Bryant
              CF Almora
              RF Soler
              C Castillo
              Bench/Surplus Players: Lake, Alcantara, Schierholz, Ruggiano, Barney, Vitters, Jackson, Sweeney, Vogelbach, etc.

              The ones who don’t work out get replaced via trade or free agent signings. But that’s a lot of young offensive talent to build on and should keep us ultra competitive for years to come. I’d say the plan is working.

              Pitching is a work in progress that could improve immediately if we are able to land Tanaka. Draft some young power arms this year and next to go along with Samardzija, Jackson, Wood, Arietta, Edwards, Vizcaino, Strop, Black, etc. and this becomes a very strong organization.

  6. Steele

    I saw where Kevin Youkilis is a free agent again. He wouldn’t be a bad pick up, and could come for a reasonable price. Plus he has good discipline, good OBP, and could be a leader in the clubhouse. We also don’t have a sure answer at 3rd base.

    1. Andrew

      Average and Power have been disappearing for three straight years, he’s also swinging at more pitches outside the zone than ever before. For a guy that will be 35 next season there’s virtually no reason to go after him for any price. There’s no pressure this seasons to at a veteran presence in the locker room, and he won’t be even close to valuable in two to three years when we might need that. Valbuena/Murphy platoon provides more value.

      1. Pat

        No. Valbuena/Murphy provided more value last year. The odds of them duplicating that are astronomical.

        1. NcMoss

          That may be but a 35 year old guy with the teams he’s been on will not want to come to a non-contender.

  7. rockin' dawg

    Olt/Vitters

  8. 70'scub

    Why not make a run at Garza (5-75) front loaded 1-25 next 4-12ish?

    1. Jason P

      Garza actually would fit the “Cubs way” profile. He’s got the stuff to overpower hitters, acceptable command, by most reports he’s a good clubhouse guy, and best of all, he’s still fairly young.

      That said, I don’t see them actually doing it after the comments Epstein made about the Jackson signing being “premature”. Though I don’t know exactly why. The “we don’t have the resources” excuse is kind of ridiculous. I don’t care what sort of financial restrictions they have – the Chicago Cubs can afford a $90 million payroll.

    2. Jason P

      I should add, most free agents don’t want their deals frontloaded. Jackson was the exception because of some tax rule or something like that that was changing.

  9. Crx99

    I have read the comments on here for over 2 years and I’ve read some good ones and some bad ones but for anybody that wants the cubs to bring the championship home to the north side needs to look no further then the blackhawks a bottom of the barrel team a culture change that when finally install the best front office staff some great draft pick then some great F/A pick up have now brought chicago 2 cups it did not happen over nite nor will the cubs rebuild but when the cubs are built to contend not only will they be the best in the business but continue to contend each and every year

  10. Cheese Chad

    Did anyone see the Cyclones take down the Hawkeyes last night. AWESOME GAME!

  11. Die hard

    With Floyd to the Braves Cubs have more leverage with Shark suitors

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