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jose veras astrosWell, the Chicago Cubs have reportedly grabbed their back-end free agent reliever. It’s Jose Veras, who gets a $4 million, one-year deal, according to Enrique Rojas. The deal comes with incentives, plus a $5.5 million team option for 2015.

I call Veras a “back-end” free agent reliever, because the Cubs have noted that they’d like to pick up a late-inning reliever on the free agent market this offseason, luring him with the possibility of winning the closer’s role. So, to that end, it’s probably not accurate to say that the Cubs signed Veras to be their closer, but he may get a shot at that role, given the relative vacuum right now (he’d be competing with guys like Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon, and Justin Grimm). With team control bleeding into 2015 by way of a very reasonable $5.5 million team option, it’s hard to ignore the possible flip value here, if Veras establishes himself as a successful closer early in the year with the Cubs. I know, folks hate to hear that, but that’s the story right now.

Veras, 33, did a fair bit of closing with the Astros last year before being dealt at the Trade Deadline to the Tigers (who used him in a setup role). Although he didn’t establish himself as a reliable bullpen option until he was almost 30, Veras has put up a 3.55 ERA over the past four seasons, racking up 248.2 innings, 272 strikeouts, and 5 teams. Although he’s an overpowering guy, he’s also a wild guy: 2013 was the first season he’s ever had a BB/9 below 4.0 (it was 3.2). Lately, his FIP tends to hang out in the mid 3s, indicating he’s a good, not dominating reliever. You hope, with a guy like Veras, that his 2013 walk rate (8.7% versus career 12.0% mark) was not a blip so much as a change in approach.

Will Veras be anointed the closer right out the gate? It doesn’t seem like it, though getting him on a one-year deal with a reasonable option for 2015 seems like it was probably in part because the Cubs could offer the opportunity for Veras to win the closer’s job. Add in the incentives, which are almost certainly tied to games finished, and you’ve got a guy that probably chose the Cubs in the hope that he can be a closer, and then find another big-time contract after a year or two. Whether he’s actually used in that role is something that remains to be seen, and will probably be determined by his own effectiveness.

With at least $4 million going to Veras, I doubt you’ll see the Cubs devoting many more – if any – dollars to a bullpen that already features Strop, Rondon, Grimm, Blake Parker, Carlos Villanueva (or Chris Rusin, depending on who is in the rotation), James Russell, Wesley Wright, an eventually-returning Kyuji Fujikawa, and a bevvy of young hopefuls. It’s a great mix of power arms for the Cubs, and – I know, I know, fool me once … – it’s a mix that could emerge as a bright spot for the team in 2014.

UPDATE: Jon Heyman reports that the contract breaks down thusly: $3.85 million for 2014, and a $150,000 buyout on the 2015 option (which is for $5.5 million). He can earn up to $750,000 in incentives based on games finished. Broken down in that way, that’s a darn good contract.

  • DavidC

    C’mon Brett, how can you name all of those relievers and not mention Parker?!?! The lack of respect that guy gets is crazy, he was terrific and easily the best reliever on the team last year outside of Strop. Are people just ignoring him because he tops out at 93 mph? He seems like the obvious 7th inning guy right now and should be viewed higher than guys like Rondon and Grimm until they do something comparable to Blake’s 2013 numbers.

    • Melrosepad

      I agree completely. Whenever the closer situation is brought up regarding the Cubs, Parker is never mentioned. No clue why when he has more “experience” closing than some of the other options since he closed in the minors for the Cubs.

  • macpete22

    What’s the 40 man at now?

    • DarthHater

      40, I think.

  • Rebuilding

    I would imagine with the games finished clause in the contract means they’ve all but promised him the closer’s role. Especially given the amount of the contract and its being set up as the perfect flippable sort (it’s 1 year or 2 year whichever you like). No reason not to stick him there and build value

  • MADDMAZZ

    I checked his stats and it doesn’t show any saves. I doubt he will be the closer but I agree the bullpen looks better than it did last year.

    • cub2014

      Veras had 19 saves half a season for the Astros.

  • cub2014

    You are at 40 you hopefully will need to add 3
    now and possibly 3 during the season (baez,
    bryant & hendricks)

    So you need to trade 3 this off season, 2
    during the season and probably 2 on IR.
    The 3 logical before the season would be
    Russell,BJax & Raley or Cabrera (hopefully
    they could be traded) 2 infielders during the
    season (Barney & Olt or Murphy or Watkins?).
    Other guys that probably be moved would be
    Vitters or Ha or Szczur.

  • Cheese Chad

    Heyman tweeted that he is to be Cub’s closer. I’ll wait to here from the team before believing that. I’m sure it’s a chance to close.

  • Blackhawks1963

    Two words. Flip asset. He could alternatively be a gas can who assumes the mantle of most hated Cub from Carlos Marmol by May 1st, or he could be effective and in turn be spun by July 31st.

  • Blackhawks1963

    I would assume Russell is on the trading block. WHere he goes and for what is anybody’s guess.

  • rudymeolismullet

    I hope the Cubs draw 1.5 million….I’m tired of the Ricketts family

    • BWA

      Why, because they signed a very good relief pitcher with experience in the 9th?

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Cubs Faith_27

        I agree rudy. Veras was not brought in because they think he will help the team, he was brought in for hopes that he pitches well and they can flip him when we are 20+games out. So I hope people don’t go to the games I kno im not paying major league prices to watch a bunch players who don’t belong out there. Rizzo, Castro, shark and a select few others Castillo excluded. That is unless in June javy baez comes up and or Kris Bryant until then I wont pay to watch that garbage.

        • hansman

          So veras pitching well doesn’t help the team now?

  • macpete22

    Maybe it’s the same situation as Houston with the Latin guys being young guys who had a lot of talent. I still have to do my job anyway.” -Jose Veras

  • North Side Irish

    Solid pick up. The bullpen really cost the Cubs a lot of games early in 2013, so I’m glad to see them accumulate some depth down there. I’m curious to get a better look at Grimm this season, especially as a 7th and 8th inning guy. There’s a lot of talent there if the Cubs can harness it.

  • Tyler

    I’m not new to reading, just new to posting. I must say that there’s a lot of confirmation bias among these negative posters – especially those who think the Rickets are money grubbing cheap skates and those who think Theo and Jed are clueless. The more positive posters generally predict the Cubs to be average, at best (more likely below average, if you consider .500 to be average), which is a much more realistic outlook.

    • Cyranojoe

      Agreed. That’s what I like about this site, the reason and rationality. Tangentially, the uptick in unreasonable, non-negotiable mindsets has been a pain, so I’m really happy about Brett’s plans for registration and so on.

  • Brian Peters

    Excellent contract!! Great coverage, Brett!!

  • trust me

    Off topic but the cubs were asking for justin upton or jason heywrd and other prospects for jeff, even for a cub fan that price is pretty steep for the braves.

  • Mrs. Howell

    Here vs. hear. Good grief!

  • Michael

    nice pickup…now that the bullpen is finished and our rotation is set (seeing as Shark isn’t likely to be moved) we can now try and grab an extra outfielder….pleaseeeeeeeeeeeee be sam fuld :-)

  • Bret Epic

    Chris Carpenter was released by the Red Sox. After all that compensation drama, he ended up pitching 6 innings in 2012 and 0 this year at the MLB level. I really liked him before the Cubs got rid of him, but even his minor league numbers have sorta fallen.

  • RyanSSS

    Good solid signing the price to me seems a touch high on a guy with only a cpl years of consistency at the ladder part of his career but very flip able some moves make me scratch my head and others are meh this is def a meh waiting on prospects to hit… Parker deserves a chance guy had great minor league numbers and seemed to be effective In MLB he’s def overlooked

  • Tim

    Now sign Jason knapp to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training

    • Bret Epic

      The only Jason Knapp I’m finding is one who hasn’t pitched since 2010 in Cleveland A Ball. Had Tommy John surgery in 2010, but some very impressive K rates. Is that the same guy? http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=knapp-001jas

      • Tim

        Yeah not saying he’s going to make the team or anything he would definitely need time in the minors. But a 23 year old former top pitching prospect coming back from injuries seems right up the Cubs alley

  • Cub Lifer

    Veres wasn’t finding employment elsewhere by the looks of things. He has reasonable potential to be a decent closer for the Cubs. Can’t hurt. Came relatively cheap and if he is lites out then he can be traded at the deadline as part of our rinse and repeat strategy of flipping guys for prospects.

    Vizcaino is probably destined for Iowa and we’ll see when he eventually graduates and into what role. Strop is the main setup guy and we will see how he handles the role. Parker and Wright probably have roles. Villenueva will be the swing guy. Russell is maybe traded meaning 2 jobs are up for grabs? Rondon will get a shot. So too Cabrera and Rosscup. Maybe Rusin if Grimm beats him out for a rotation slot.

    • macpete22

      The Mariners, Astros and Rockies were all looking at signing Veras

      • Cyranojoe

        Ouch. Not an encouraging list, even with the Mariners signing Cano.

  • jt

    Seems the guy tossing strikes will get to close.

  • Kenster

    Soooo how about:
    RP1: Wesley Wright
    RP2: James Russell
    RP3: Carlos Villanueva
    RP4: Justin Grimm/Hector Rondon
    SU5: Blake Parker
    SU6: Pedro Strop
    CP7: Jose Veras

    Zac Rosscup
    Alberto Cabrera
    Brooks Raley

    Bullpen has a lot better depth and experience than last year. I find that too be something of excitement other than the prospects. I like!

    • Kenster

      And can’t forget about Kyuji Fujikawa and Arodys Vizcaino
      I’m pretty confident in giving any of those 12 pitchers the ball

  • Oswego Chris

    Whoa….let’s make sure we all take the time to make sure we are typing “Veras” and not “Veres”…that name, in any relation to a Cubs’ bullpen makes my Post Traumatic Stress flare up…

  • johnny chess Aka 2much2say

    Amazing how one RP signing and all of sudden the Cubs are stacked in Bullpen

    • FarmerTanColin

      The bullpen was strong before Veras. Veras just knocks everyone else down a level. Meaning there are multiple players that could take over the closer role while occupying lesser roles if that makes sense. The sign of a stacked bullpen…on paper. Yet to see them play this year.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      The Cubs have signed more than one relief pitcher this winter.

  • Don Amon

    Longtime reader, first time poster.

    This stinks. Everything about the Cubs went from bad to worse since new management took over. And now it’s going from worse to worse. This guy will be fine, I’m sure. But fine isn’t good.

    • hansman

      Everything? I guess if you ignore the farm system, scouting, development, the front office, the training facilities and our drafts.

      Hell, the much maligned MLB team is pretty close but much younger.

    • Cyranojoe

      Yeah, just consider the state of our minor league in terms of top talent, total depth, and actual development tools (video, technology, statistics, etc) being used and provided to the staff there… I’m not sure you’re paying attention.

      As for the team situation being worse than before, what did you expect? You usually don’t get rid of contracts like Marmol, Big Z, and Soriano in return for top-notch anything. Was it possible to come out of that smelling like roses? Yeah, but the odds were low. Would have been nice, but I’m not crying “this stinks!” because it turns out our no-longer-quite-so-new FO aren’t miracle workers.

      That said… I can maybe tolerate one more year of ~90 losses. I know at this point the Plan depends more on the prospects proving they’re worthy than it depends on the FO doing anything special, but… yeah. A bad 2015 and I’ll get cranky, I suspect.

  • Stogie

    I’d say Russell may be offered in a Samardjia deal. Too many bodies in the pen.

  • Brian Peters

    Just read on Bleacher Report that the Cubs wanted either Heyward or Upton, plus one or two other players. I immediately thought, “Theo, what are you smoking?” SHARK IS NOT AN ACE, and even if he were, isn’t the idea to get two or three younger pitchers in return??? I don’t understand this at all.

    • hansman

      The idea is that you get the best talent possible. If that means you get an awesome SS and 1B and a 3B prospect, you do it.

      • Brian Peters

        I guess, but we need pitching. If they aren’t going to get good, young, quality pitching as at least PART of a deal flies in the face of the message that we need pitching.

        • CubFan Paul

          We can’t be mad if they trade Samardzija for the best package available.

          Any accumulated assets that create surplus become high value currency for a need (pitching).

        • frank

          We need hitting too.

      • CubFan Paul

        Exactly Hans.

    • YourResidentJag

      So you’re saying they don’t need a young versatile LH hitter eventually in the lineup. You know, like Jason Heyward.

      • Brian Peters

        Not saying that all. I wouldn’t balk at that notion at all. Clearly, though, players like Heyward aren’t on the table.

        • YourResidentJag

          You never know. Problem is that it would prob take some prospects.

    • Jason P

      There is a huge difference between “wanting” and “insisting”. I’m sure the Cubs started the Garza negotiations with Texas asking for Jurickson Profar before moving off that price considerably.

      There were reports that the Braves took Lucas Sims off the table, which, if that’s true, I don’t blame the Cubs for walking away. Sims is arguably an inferior prospect to CJ Edwards, and the Cubs got him as the centerpiece but not only piece for 2 months of Garza. If the Braves really wanted to work something out, Sims would have to be the starting point.

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

    Solid signing, still doesn’t address our horrible offense. What kind of lineup are we expecting under RR? Castro-Rizzo-Barney-3B-Castillo-Schierholtz-Lake-OF My based-off-of-absolutely-nothing guess would be Lake-Castro-Rizzo-Schierholtz-3B-Castillo-OF-Barney hoping for Olt to figure it out at 3rd and maybe Vitters/BJax/Anyone/BrettfromBN surprises for the other OF spot starting position. With the possibility of Baez/Bryant coming up this season it could become a somewhat functional offense. I don’t want to set the bar too high, but let’s see what happens.

    • Brian Peters

      I don’t think we’ll ever see Vitters or BJax in a Chicago Cubs uniform again. Those ships have sailed.

      • Cyranojoe

        Sounds like Vitters is going to get a shot in LF, at least first to prove himself in Iowa and then as depth should the major league team’s outfield go awry at all.

        But yeah. BJax is not likely gonna get another chance in Wrigley.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          He’s proved himself in Iowa, at least with the bat. There are some questions about his ability to play left, but spring training should provide a decent idea of his capacity there.

  • Jason P

    It feels like this offseason has been about strengthening our singular strength and ignoring our multiple weaknesses. The bullpen was the one area of this team that I felt had a chance to be pretty good heading into the offseason, yet that’s where all the attention has been focused thus far. Meanwhile, the offense still projects to be bottom 5 in the league with the options for upgrade on the free agent market dwindling.

    That’s not to say Wesley Wright and Jose Veras won’t be solid additions. The fact that they are adding bullpen arms isn’t the cause for inaction elsewhere. It’s just frustrating that they have completely abandoned the “every opportunity to win is sacred” mantra they threw at us back in ’11.

    • SenorGato

      The bullpen sucked balls last year and these FA signings are some of the best individual talents currently on the bullpen part of the roster. There were some talents you could hope on if they got healthy or picked it up in the minors, but guys like Wright and Veras have ML production with some upside to get good value on. Right now with Poor Tom around getting bang for the buck is a big deal and bullpen talent is where you can get a couple of wins for relatively low prices.

      OTOH yeah, I’m still annoyed at how boring this offense is. They’ve been rumored to be looking at OFers for a long time now but still nothing doing.

      • Jason P

        After the break, the Cubs bullpen was 13th in ERA, and that’s with Zach Rosscup, Alberto Cabrera, and Justin Grimm not getting called up until September. With another year of development, the Cubs pen would already have been knocking on the door of top 10 in the league.

        Of course, I’m not going to sit here and complain about them upgrading any part if the team – I just wish they put more effort into acquiring offensive talent.

        • SenorGato

          I agree that I wish there was a bat addition to talk about right now, but completely disagree that those guys should have prohibited making any moves in the bullpen. This is especially true since two of them might be seen as starter depth with Cabrera just moving back to the rotation and Grimm still viewed as more starter than reliever.

        • SenorGato

          Also not sure how much I buy gradual, linear improvement…Not that it doesn’t exist, just that it’s not very common and something that should be counted on.

  • Kev

    There was a nanosecond where I read the headline as “Cubs Sign José Valverde” and I almost threw myself through a glass window.

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