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.

  • DCF

    Nice signing, which plugs an obvious hole in the team. However, I just can’ t get myself to really care. The outlook of another miserable Season is really frustrating. And as much as I would love to believe in The Plan, I fail to see how the Cubs can become competitive in 2015 without adding any major pieces in 2014. Where is the rotation upgrades, where are the impact bats?

  • jt

    I like the potential of the 2014 Cubs offense better than that of the 2013 team. However, it is still lacking. I don’t see them blowing games out early. But they may score a few runs more often. So… IMO, this team is going to be about run prevention and effieciently getting those runs that are available to cross the plate more often. The key will be the BP. If the depth allows them to be used effectively early and often it could be an interesting, though perhaps not great, season.

    • jay

      What have the Cubs done for you to like the 2014 offense?

      • W_Francisco

        Well for starters, what we saw out of Lake and Castillo were encouraging, they will get better. Castro CANNOT get any worse than he was, I see major improvement with him as well as Rizzo. If Rizzo can stop being pull-happy I see no reason why he cant hit .285/.360 and hit 30 hrs. He hasn’t remotely dipped into his potential. The only concerns are RF, 2B and 3B. But like most Cubs fans I have optimism Olt can make the club out of spring training and Barney can have a bounce back year and improve that .200 to about .250 to .260. I’d be happy. Schierzholt’s second half last year was riddled with regression so we’ll see what happens next year. Maybe he was exhausted by all the playing time.

  • OlderStyle

    Veteran bullpen help is now crossed off my wishlist. If we can sign Tanaka and sign a power bat for the outfield, it will be a successful offseason by my estimation.
    Come on, Tanaka!

    • Chad

      What power bats are available to sign?

      • C. Steadman

        Choo has 20+ HR potential every maybe him

        • Chad

          I consider Choo a power bat like some consider Castro a power bat. There’s potential, but that is not his MO. Saw the Nelson Cruz idea, but I hope there is no way the cubs touch that

      • Edwin

        Nelso Cruz. Although he’s a terrible fielder, bad baserunner, and doesn’t get on base very well. He’s past 30, he’s looking for way too high of a deal, and for what it’s worth, he’s had PED issues.

        I can’t really think of too many other “Power bats” for the outfield available to sign.

        • C. Steadman

          Tyler Colvin!!! I kid…

    • hansman

      If we land Tanaka and Choo, this becomes a VERY interesting team.

      With that said, I doubt we get both.

      • Roscoe Village Fan

        I think it’s enough to hope we get one. IMO I’d prefer to put that ‘$$$ toward tanaka

  • Robbo

    Veras’ velocity seems to have dipped a bit in recent years. Any concern over the drop, or has he already made enough adjustments to his approach that suggest it won’t be an issue?

  • http://BN Sacko

    Yeah! we signed somebody I’v heard of and have seen a lot. This is very encouraging during this dry spell. Our BP has been our greatest improvement since opening day 2012. Someone may have the stats from last year in which games we had the lead and lost. I also remember Improving that stat be 50% we would have been around .500 for the year! i might be wrong but pretty dang close to that mark.

  • Aaron

    Let’s not hide the fact that his W-L record was 0-5 in 2013.

    • TWC

      Lulz. Nice trolling.

  • SydneyCubsFan

    Don’t mind this move at all.

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