Quietly, 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.