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.

  • Nick

    I love the Kalish signing. I think he will shock a lot of people this spring. He has a nice mix of power and speed that could work great in a platoon position in the outfield.

  • regimezefelerski

    It would be so cool to have one of these ‘signings’ to have a break out year. A diamond in the rough

    • Hookers or Cake

      Gregg – Murphy – Sweeney were all decent trash heap pickups last year

      • C. Steadman

        Donnie Murphy brought a little excitement during the dog days of the Cubs season, it was fun to watch him do his thing

        • Jon

          And a bit of anger and rage, when he stole AB’s away from the great Logan Watkins.

          • C. Steadman

            dont think Logan plays 3B, that’d be Barney’s fault

          • ssckelley

            Jon, good to see you have finally come around on Logan Watkins.

    • Jason P

      That it would be. The Cubs have plucked a lot of players off waivers the past few years. A few have turned into pretty solid utility guys (Luis Valbuena, Donnie Murphy, Ryan Sweeney), but they haven’t been able to find that diamond-in-the-rough, starting-caliber player.

      • CubsFanSaxMan

        One rarely finds quality starting players in other teams’ scrap heaps. That seems to be the plan right now. Sign all of the non-tenders and see what happens. Just as with prospects – it’s a “crap shoot.”

        • dw8

          Ryan Sweeney is this player. If he’s the left side of a CF platoon this year, and stays healthy, he’ll be a 2-3 win player! #boldprediction

        • YourResidentJag

          I’d take a flyer on TJ Macfarland of the Orioles in a trade for Schierholtz alone. He has decent peripherals and could project to a “Travis Wood” type SP.

        • Ivy Walls

          no it is called a jouneymen player, this goes back before Ruth

      • ClevelandCubsFan

        Waiting for our David Ortiz, are we? That might be a once in a generation type find…

        • Jason P

          I purposely didn’t mention Ortiz for precisely that reason. There aren’t many Ortiz’s out there on waivers. I’m more just talking about a guy who – even if it’s a one year wonder kind of thing – comes out of nowhere to post a 3-4 win season.

          I think that player could be Sweeney as someone mentioned above, or maybe even Valbuena with a little luck.

  • clark addison

    These kinds of signings usual wind up at Iowa or released.

    • gocatsgo2003

      … which is kind of the point of minor league signings.

  • Jono

    I bet sveum and Roberts would’ve gotten along

  • jt

    I like the Kalish sign.
    Roberts is the type who may have a couple of decent monts… maybe not also.

  • Ryan Barnes

    I don’t hate any of the Cubs signings they’ve made this offseason, BUT…..I hate this waiting feeling. I’m feeling growing frustration that the Cubs timeline seems to be going the wrong way. I understand that it’s part of the process, but this process is not fun for anyone involved. If the Cubs do end up trading de facto “ace” Jeff Samardzija, I understand that it would likely net back a couple young arms, but that also lengthens the process another year or two IMO because the Cubs aren’t going to be able to get 2015 high caliber-ready-MLB arms. Samardzija is a good pitcher with a couple years of control left, but the only way the Cubs get the highest tier pitching in return is if they get low ball pitchers. Maybe I’ll find myself to be wrong, but I just can’t see a team giving up top-quality MLB-arms with an ETA of 6-12 months from now.

    • cubbiehawkeye

      I have plenty of fun watching every game. You don’t have to watch a winning product to have fun. You watch the winning product being built with every at-bat the young guys take. That being said watching Castro and Rizzo struggle was painful but it’s going to make this years improvement that much sweeter. Lake brought some energy to the field when he graduated to the big boy potty.

      • Ivy Walls

        it is the only perspective to take in this stage and that is what I look for. I actually see Lake being groomed for that metaphoric super utility player. This would take some real discipline with Renteria as he would have to have a weekly plan where it would be grand to have Lake play at least 5 possibly even 6 or all seven field positions, even SS and 1B. Developing an asset like this would create a huge asset that other teams would covet, especially if the Cubs emerge as a young team.

        Next up besides the ascent of the Big 4 or 5 is seeing if Alcantara develops and emerges as the 2B of the future. A speedy IF’er who can SW who has power is important. Lastly not whether Baez and Bryant ascend, but whether Soler does or is traded. Then the question is where does Almora play, a player whom every keen eye thinks is a potential HOF’er.

      • Cecil

        Sorry to be *negative* or whatever, but I completely disagree. They are not my kids – watching marginal improvement of guys that don’t belong on winning teams is not satisfying. I’m glad that does it for you, but not even close here. Maybe we turn a few into trade chips for prospects who are long shots rather than known commodity fringe major leaguers. I’ll follow the game outcomes, but I’m not investing meaningful amounts of time watching that go down. The upside is so limited that I’m not personally interested in doing so. Good for you in taking so much pleasure in every baby step of every 25th man though.

    • D.G.Lang

      Perhaps one should consider that it is Smardzjia who is holding things up by not signing an extension and wanting to be paid much more than he is worth. I expect that he and the Cubs will NOT come to any agreement and he will walk away if he isn’t traded for whatever the Cubs can get.

      Rather than blaming the Cubs, blame the greedy players who are demanding so much. If Jeff doesn’t want to remain here, he won’t and there is nothing the Cubs can do other than to get as much for him as possible. I blame him and not the Cubs.

      Likewise, don’t blame the Cubs for Aramis Ramirez who wanted much more than the Cubs felt he was worth. He wanted to get as much as possible and play for a contender which the Cubs weren’t going to be regardless who the owners were. I recently read on this site someone again blaming the Cubs FO for losing Ramirez who didn’t want to stay here.

      I guess it’s easier to keep blaming the FO no matter what the situation is than to properly put the blame on the greedy players who are demanding every penny they can get no matter how much it harms the team.

      The Cubs need to finish the rebuilding of their minor league system and major league park to provide the necessary skilled players and additional income to sign the better players rather than throw away excessive amounts of money on individual players which the team won’t derive great value from and which is what is slowing down the rebuilds and would definitely cause the rebuilds to take much longer.

  • Dustin S

    It looks like Kalish didn’t play at all in 2013 (shoulder surgery), so he’s really a question mark. But definitely worth a gamble. His numbers a few years ago in the minors at AA-AAA were very nice for being 22 at the time. He has all the marks of a young prospect brought up too early. So maybe a year off, now bit older, and a change of scenery will help.

    • ssckelley

      At least he could be better than McDonald.

      • C. Steadman

        hey old Darnell posted a 0.2 bWAR :P, better than a replacement player!

        • Fishin Phil

          That is one guy I will not miss.

          • C. Steadman

            well he’s still in the organization…so dont get too comfy yet haha

            • Fishin Phil

              13th on the depth chart, but still #1 in your heart!

  • cubmig

    Well at least the cost of the ink wasn’t a deal breaker…..[snark]

  • Serious Cubs Fan


    Whens the next podcast coming? I saw over twitter a while back that you sahadev might do one an interview with Chris Cotillo at the winter meetings?

    • Brett

      Just couldn’t get our scheduled lined up – too much happening. Hopefully next week. Sorry for the intermittence.

  • woody

    I don’t know what to say. This is pathetic! It’s like we are beggars at a banquet and people are giving us scraps off of their plates. Well mayor Rahm is starting to get a case of the ass. Hopefully for the rooftop owners. Bring back Al Capone he would know how to handle things. Get Ricketts his signs so he doesn’t have anymore excuses anymore. I’m looking forward to hopefully seeing Baez and Bryant this year and possibly Alcantara. I’ll hang in there for another year, but if next December comes and this dumpster diving is still the only news we hear then I really have to do some soul searching. After all isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?

    • Fishin Phil

      “I don’t know what to say.”

      When I find myself in that situation, I don’t say anything.

      • woody

        Is that a polite way of telling me to shut up?

        • Fishin Phil

          Just what I would do. You do as you please.

          • Rizzovoir Dog

            Soul searching? It’s fucking baseball, get a grip.

            • Carew

              Haha that’s a real response

              • Brett

                Kind of bizarre, given what it was responding to.

                • Carew

                  I just assumed it was to the first comment.

                  • DarthHater

                    Yea, I think it was a response to the earlier comment that contained the phrase “soul searching.” 😛

                    • Brett

                      My bust – I just looked at the two before that one.

    • DarthHater

      No, that is not the definition of insantiy. Here is the definition, courtesy of Merriam Webster’s Unabridged:

      1: a deranged state of the mind usually occurring as a specific disorder (as schizophrenia)

      2: such unsoundness of mind or lack of understanding as prevents one from having the mental capacity required by law to enter into a particular relationship, status, or transaction or as removes one from criminal or civil responsibility

      3a : extreme folly or unreasonableness
      b : something utterly foolish or unreasonable

      • Pat

        Thank you. That’s probably the most repeated inaccurate statement out there.

    • Lukas

      Thats why the Cubs are trying something different. It’s funny to watch everyone beg for the Cubs to sign players to the big contracts when a few years ago everyone was in agreement that that is what caused this mess in the first place.

  • Die hard

    Theo must be a Seinfeld fan- an off season about nothing

    • Stinky Pete

      And you want to be my latex salesman…

      • Fishin Phil

        Serenity Now!

      • YourResidentJag


    • DarthHater

      Cubstivus is not over until you pin your President of Baseball Operations!

      • wilbur

        on the sixth day of cubstivus the rickets gave to me,
        six bison dogs with ketchup. …

        and a samardizjia in a pear tree..

      • DarthHater

        Five minor league signings

        Four waiver claims
        Three low-risk flyers
        Two Tommy Johns
        And a ball stuck in the ivy.

  • Jason (Thundermug)

    Well I think the Cubs made Scott Boras eat some crow today. Big $$$ on minor league contracts and invites to spring training today so there Boras go crawl underneath the Rock you slither out of every so ofton. ( Baker, Roberts, Kalish, Hendriks waiver claim)

  • Diamondrock

    As a Ryan myself, I am pleased with the Cubs’ front offices apparent goal to SIGN ALL THE RYANS!

    Between Ryan Kalish, Ryan Roberts, and Ryan Sweeney this could be a very Ryan team.

    Any other Ryans that the team could sign?

    • Dylan Heuer

      Ryan Theriot.

      • Diamondrock

        Well played, sir. Well played.

    • commander bob

      beaver and touhy must be exhausted after a rigorous week of wheeling and dealing. i beat they are down at Gamekeepers right now throwing some whiskey shots down like its nobody’s business.

      These guys must be exhausted. How do they keep up this grueling pace?

    • cubsin

      Dempster, Braun and Howard! That ought to make the fans happy!

  • Michael

    I know the draft quite a while away but could you imagine Alex Jackson as one of our prospect also I know we need pitching but wow we would be stacked in position players….might have the all prospect team in our farm. I know not everyone pans out!!

    • cubsin

      Scouts are convinced that Alex Jackson’s bat would play at any position, but they’re not sure he can stay at catcher. If the Cubs brass thinks he can and they’re willing to wait until 2018 or later for him to reach the Major Leagues, they would probably consider him at #4. Otherwise, it will be a college pitcher, Trea Turner or a very fast riser in the prospect rankings.

      It takes quite a few years for a high school catcher to develop the necessary defensive and game-calling skills,

  • http://Bleachernation Lou Brock

    With the way the Cubs are positioning themselves for the 2014 season I would focus on who the # 1 pick in 2015 will be. At this point, based on his freshman year at LSU, we should be looking at a INF named Alex Bregman. He is a good fit as a middle infielder, most likely 2B.
    Excellent character and great hitting tools are his calling card.
    Not much power yet but line drive hitter with very good pitch recognition and high OBP. Hit .368 as a freshman last year in the tough SEC.

    • ChicagoMike702

      Agreed on the #1 pick. This is going to be the worst lineup in baseball.

      • ssckelley

        I doubt that.

        • ChicagoMike702

          Only 2 teams scored less runs last year while the Cubs had Soriano in the lineup for 91 games and Schierholtz played out of his mind. Plus, Navarro is gone. This offense is going to be incredibly bad.

    • SenorGato

      Right now the top talent is Dazmon Cameron, son of Mike Cameron. He does seem like a potential beast. A player on the radar for me is Ryan Kellogg of ASU.

    • Anthony

      Daz Cameron will be the #1 pick in 2015. He’s a five-tool guy with good bloodlines. (Mike Cameron’s son)

      • Noah_I

        Things that make me feel old: Mike Cameron is old enough to be a junior in high school.

        • SenorGato

          His dad’s only 40 so there’s that.

    • Noah_I

      You don’t pick a college second baseman who doesn’t have power as your first pick in the draft.

  • jmc

    Ssckelley what was the worst line up in baseball?

    • MichiganGoat


      • YourResidentJag

        No, it’s us.

  • jmc

    sorry one too many s

  • Blackhawks1963

    Kalish was thrown on the trash heap for what surely logical reasons. While I think it’s good to take a flyer on guys, don’t get carried away with the future.

    Sweeney too. Great that he had a nice 5 week stretch, but the guy’s history suggests he shouldn’t be expected to be anything more than filler.

  • Moe C

    I like these signings if it came off a nice winter meeting or after a few FA pickups like a Corey Hart or a few decent pitchers but minor league signings are just that minor in an offseason that needed at least a lil burst of excitement its been nothing but a mild yawn at best. I cant wait for 2015 when our young guns come up

  • Cubfanbob

    Cheering from a far this Kalish kid. Hope he can get a second chance.

  • Stevie B

    That should SO be our motto for 2014:

    ” Sure, why not !!??”

  • Kyle

    If you don’t have enough useful players to fill your roster, you should always be able to find enough of these “bad but some upside” players to fill it out. I guess the fact that we’re doing so is better than not doing it at all, though.

  • Stevie B

    Thus our motto

    Can’t hurt, so why not??

    I have my eyes on the prize.

    I’m still a young man….

  • http://Bleachernation Lou Brock

    2015 draft best college pitcher as of this date appears to be RHP from UCLA 6’4″ James Kaprielian. Has had success in the PAC 12 and earlier this summer pitched really well in the Cape Cod league.

  • Jason (Thundermug)

    Another Ryan could be on Cubs Radar

    Ryan Reid – R – Pirates

    Pirates designated RHP Ryan Reid for assignment.
    The 28-year-old pitched well during his brief stint with the Pirates in 2013, posting a 1.64 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 7/3 K/BB ratio in 11 innings of work. There could potentially be other teams willing to give him a shot at a bullpen job.

    • Andrew

      Small Sample Size Alert. But also, unsustainable LOB over 90%, BABIP of .235, K/9 dropped from his 8+ avg in the minors to just over 5.

      He’s put together some decent AAA seasons as a 27 and 28 year old, in AAA, but the age alone says something. K/BB a hair over 2 all the way through is acceptable, might be worth a look, but probably isn’t.

  • josh ruiter

    Ok…I’m going to put this out there once and then be done with it. At some point, when we become a legitimate contender…platoons won’t fly. What perennial contender employs multiple or even a single platoon in their everyday lineup? I think as long as you see platoons being “good signings” we won’t be a contending ball club. Not that I’m frustrated with where we are…we aren’t even rebuilding…after 100+ years it must be considered a BUILD not a rebuild. From the ground up…but I desire the day where we get excited about full time player signings instead of platoon guys. I want Choo and Tanaka…I want everyday players…not awesome splits/platoon types. Alright, soapbox finished.

    • Luke

      Historically, platoons have been used by a ton of very good teams and very good organizations. Done properly a platoon is a good way to maximize the production available from the players on the roster. That’s something any successful franchise would be interested in doing.

      That does not mean the Cubs are in that category. But when they are, I suspect we’ll still have a platoon or two on the field.

      • josh ruiter

        Luke, not disagreeing, but for my sake…do you have any examples of a platoon being prevalent on a good team? Two seems even more bizarre to me…but that is why I am not paid.

        • Luke

          Earl Weaver and Casey Stengal used platoons pretty commonly and to great effect.

          More recently, Oakland has been using them and drawn some press for it. This article was from 2012, a year in which Oakland had a pretty good season.

          • josh ruiter

            Thanks Luke. I appreciate the digging and all the work you do at BN. The Weaver/Stengel teams I take as great evidence….Oakland, seems to me to require that to field a competitive team…who have they platooned however is still my question…seems like haven’t had a platoon guy since they got good again…really didn’t have one this past year. IMO a utility guy who is good is not a platoon. The Red Sox you could argue with Nava/Gomes…but even then it was more Nava than Gomes…but Gomes did get his AB’s so I will give you a partial platoon there, but nowhere else…and that wasn’t a platoon going in either. When guys play their way onto the field is a bit different than signing platoon type guys.

            • Luke

              A true platoon will always be lopsided in favor of one guy.

              Done properly, you have one guy hit against RHP and the other guy hit against LHP. That means the left handed hitter (who will likely be hitting against the RHP) will get the majority of the at bats.

              Some managers don’t have the guts to run a proper platoon and instead do stupid things like trying to take advantage of hot streaks, or filling out the lineup card according to their gut rather than the numbers. Bad managers like that have given platooning a bad name among some fans, but that is not how a proper platoon is run.

              Mike Quade was very bad about abandoning his platoons to go with the so-called hot hitter, and as a result his platoons didn’t work. That is just one of my many, many, many complaints with his short but horrible term as manager.

    • jt

      The only player who got into more than 139 games for the 2013 Red Sox was Pedroia.
      There were injuries, but there were also platoons.

  • will

    I hear the cubs r the team who’s close to signing gavin floyd

    • X The Cubs Fan

      Beat me to it.

  • mjhurdle

    Sahadev Sharma ‏@sahadevsharma 19m
    If accurate, this hugely affects Cubs offseason… RT @lonestarball: Rakutan President says Tanaka will not be posted

  • josh ruiter

    So…if Tanaka doesn’t get posted…do we immediately have a leg up on the market? Who is left out there as a SP option? The Yankees, Rangers, DBacks, Mets, Mariners, Blue Jays, Pirates, Orioles all out there needing a starting pitching option…most of which need a front end starter on the relative cheap. Of the guys available you really have only Scherzer (if available), Shark, Hamels/Lee…That no matter how you slice it is more people than slices of pie…I say call up each of those teams with a suitable package to the FO’s desires and take the first guy who bites….those packages would be Bradley/Trahan, Sanchez/Stroman/3rd piece, Glasnow/Polanco/Heredia, Syndegaard/Montero/Plawecki, Walker/Hultzen, Gausman or Bundy/Rodriguez, I don’t see a fit with NY or TX unless major league pieces are involved.

  • JeffR

    Am I the only one skeptical about this latest tanaka report? None of the national guys have said anything as far as I’ve seen.