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chang yong limQuietly, the Chicago Cubs non-tendered Korean reliever Chang-Yong Lim last month when the tender deadline came and went. Although the 37-year-old righty was not arbitration eligible, he had a unique contract that was likely to pay him handsomely in 2014 if the Cubs had kept him on the 40-man.

Lim was coming back from Tommy John surgery last year when the Cubs originally signed him, so he made only a few appearances in the minors and the bigs before the season ended (just 28.1 innings total on the year). The Cubs had just a short time to review where they felt like things stood, and they made the decision not to be on the hook for a reported $5 million salary in 2014. Does that mean the two sides are going their separate ways?

Not necessarily, according to a report out of Korea, which indicates that Lim still wants to make a go of it in the States, and the Cubs have interest in bringing him back. His situation is a little tricky because of the unique contract, but the report suggests that, despite the non-tender, the Cubs control Lim’s MLB rights for 2014 (because there is talk of having to pay a transfer fee to the Cubs to bring him back to South Korea). He could come to Spring Training as a non-roster invite, but I’m assuming he’ll try to find a better deal in the States from another team first before settling on a crowded situation with the Cubs. If another team were willing to give him a big league deal, I doubt the Cubs would stand in the way (again, depending on the contours of his contract, and whether the Cubs have already essentially paid him a little something for 2014).

As we’ve detailed exhaustively over the past few weeks, the Cubs’ bullpen seems largely set:

The Cubs’ legitimate bullpen options presently go 10 deep: Jose Veras, James Russell, Wesley Wright, Pedro Strop, Carlos Villanueva (or Chris Rusin, depending on the rotation), Hector Rondon, Blake Parker, Justin Grimm, Zac Rosscup, and Brooks Raley. The typical bullpen includes seven guys, so, barring a trade or injury, that means someone like Parker or Grimm wouldn’t even make the pen at this point.

That list doesn’t include minor league deal/non-roster invite guys (some of whom, like Jonathan Sanchez, really do have a fair shot of making the pen as a specialist). And that doesn’t include rostered youngsters like Arodys Vizcaino, Alberto Cabrera, Neil Ramirez, and Dallas Beeler. And that doesn’t include Kyuji Fujikawa, who is expected back at midseason. There is depth, yo. Lots of it.

Lim, should he receive a minor league deal and Spring Training invite, would be another Spring body fighting for an unlikely bullpen spot. For Lim to actually make the pen, there would have to be a couple injuries, one of Villanueva/Rusin would have to be in the rotation, and Lim would still have to beat out all other fringe bullpen candidates to win a spot. There’s no harm in having a guy like Lim around, though, if he’s willing to stick as AAA depth for now.

  • CubFan Paul

    Pen out of Spring Training:

    Alberto Cabrera
    Jose Veras
    Carlos Villanueva
    Wesley Wright
    James Russell
    Pedro Strop
    (Lim)

    The rest (Chris Rusin, Hector Rondon, Blake Parker, Justin Grimm, Zac Rosscup, Brooks Raley) should go to Iowa (either because they’re filler (Rusin, Parker, Raley) or need innings (Grimm, Rondon, Rosscup))

    Anybody else out of options besides Cabrera?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I believe all the guys you mention have at least one option left. That’s obviously going to play a huge part in sorting out who makes the club out of Spring Training.

    • mike

      Alberto Cabrera out of the pen? No thanks. He’s not ready. And yes, I know he’s out of options.

    • NorthSideIrish

      As of now, one of the Rusin/Cabrera/Villanueva group would probably be the #5 starter…so that would be one more spot in the pen.

      • willis

        If it’s between those guys, hopefully it’s Villanueva. Rusin as a 5th starter would be just awful. Then again they are trying to lose as many games as possible, so maybe that’s what they want. Ugh.

  • CubsFanSaxMan

    Although one never knows for sure, early indications show that this year’s bullpen should be a strength for the Cubs. Now let’s do something to help the offense!

  • Fastball

    It’s going to be very difficult for some of these guys to get enough innings in ST to even get a serious look at making this team. We have certainly signed a lot of guys for the pen. I am not so sure they are anything but mediocre arms as compared to the rest of the league. If I’m Theo he has to be thinking 2/3′s of these guys are going to suck and in the end it will be difficult getting a reliable bull pen in place. I like the way Theo is playing this out. Sign as many as you can to show up and see what happens. With all the arm injuries we have had in the bull pen the past few years and guys who just end up getting released because they suck playing the numbers game is quite smart. I never trust bullpen guys unless it’s an Eckersley or Ramiro. It comes down to playing the hot hand and knowing when that guy’s luck is about to change and move away from him to someone else for a while.

  • salesguy

    In reference to the list that Paul displayed above, I think the pen is much stronger with Parker than without. Personally, I think this team has gotten to the point where it can transition away from 37 year old relief pitchers, and Lim, though he looked ok last year, was also hit hard on some occasions. I would also like to see Russell dealt, and maybe have Sanchez take that second lefty role. Russell looked exposed on several occasions last year, and seemed to wear down, combine that with the overuse, and I think his arm is a ticking time bomb, and though it may sound cold, one I would like to see “go off” on someone else’s roster..

    • willis

      I agree. I like Parker. I think he’s much more than a filler. He’s not a closer and maybe not even an 8th inning guy, but he can get guys out and has decent stuff.

      I don’t see any point bringing Lim back. He showed not much of anything last year and what’s the point with all the other arms ready or close? Just adds more weight and takes up a space either in Chicago or Iowa from a young arm that needs the experience.

      • CubFan Paul

        “He’s not a closer and maybe not even an 8th inning guy, but he can get guys out and has decent stuff”

        There’s enough of that already to start the year (Cabrera, Villanueva, Wright & Russell)

        • willis

          True, but I’d much rather give the ball to Parker than Lim. If that’s the question, not sure that it will come to that. And if it doesn’t, he’s just in the way of decent pitchers in Iowa.

          I just didn’t like what I saw last year from him. Maybe he’s better than that.

          • CubFan Paul

            “I just didn’t like what I saw last year from him”

            Same for me when it comes to Parker

            • willis

              I hear ya, and I’m not trying to pick, but what don’t you like about Parker? His numbers in the minors were decent and he posted a 2.72 ERA and 1.165 whip last season, 55 Ks in 46 innings. It isn’t mind blowing but I think it’s good enough to have a major league bullpen spot.

              • Norm

                The only thing that really scares me about Parker is that fly ball rate. I bet he gives up a lot of homers.

  • salesguy

    I’d trust Parker with the 7th, he was a closer at Iowa, and makes me think of Joe Borowoski when I see him pitch. The guy wouldn’t overwhelm you with his stuff, but he knows how to get guys out, doesn’t get rattled, and will rarely let the game get away from him. As far as pure stuff goes, I’d love to see a 1-2 combo of Stropp and Vizcaino for the high leverage mix and match, late inning situations, but every bullpen needs a guy like Parker.

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