cubaLate last week, there were reports that the Chicago Cubs were interested in Cuban defector Yenier Bello, a 28-year-old catcher. The Cubs really need some upper level catching depth, so their interest in Bello is not a surprise.

But Bello isn’t the only currently-available Cuban defector of possible interest to the Cubs. Righty Odrisamer Despaigne, 26, has now also been formally cleared to sign with a big league team after defecting last year. Despaigne has been pitching in Mexico for scouts in advance of his clearance, and makes for another interesting back-end-type pitching arm on the market (albeit one with youth on his side). He posted a 2.58 ERA in Cuba’s highest professional league last year, and has intrigued a number of big league teams. It’s unclear, however, if he’s being viewed as a legit plug-him-into-the-rotation type, or if he’s a mere flyer with possible bullpen upside. Ben Badler, for what it’s worth, suggests it’s the latter.

Even still, given the Cubs’ pitching needs, they may want to take a chance on Despaigne’s youth. Last year, the Red Sox took a chance on a similar Cuban pitcher – Dalier Hinojosa – for $4.25 million. All things considered, it’s a reasonable amount to risk in this market, especially for a team not needing to lean on acquired pitching for playoff contention.

There is another Cuban arm on the market, about whom we haven’t heard much lately (but I didn’t want to exclude him): Raicel Iglesias. The 23-year-old righty is viewed as a potential quality bullpen arm, but who might need some development time in the States. Since the original reports of his defection in November, there have been intermittent mentions of workouts in Mexico and teams being interested, but nothing significant. He may fly under the radar until he signs, and, if the scouts like what they see, I can’t imagine the Cubs won’t be involved.

On the positional side, the player to watch right now is Rusney Castillo, who just held a private workout for the Dodgers in the Dominican Republic. The 26-year-old Castillo can play center field, second base, and/or third base, and comes with a little pop. He’s put up great numbers in Cuba, but apparently not all teams are convinced he’s a future starter in the bigs. Still, that positional versatility is mighty attractive (the Dodgers have four starting outfielders, for crying out loud), and the Cubs aren’t as deep in the outfield – in the Majors or minors – as they’d probably like to be.

I’d add a word about shortstop Aledmys Diaz, the probably-23-year-old shortstop in whom the Cubs had interest last year, but, because of age-related shenanigans, he’s not eligible to sign until mid-February. I expect we’ll hear more about him at that time, though it’s questionable whether the Cubs will remain interested (relative to other teams with more immediately pressing infield needs). For that same reason, I’m not saying too much about 23-year-old shortstop Erisbel Arruebarruena, who figures to sign with a team less loaded in the infield at the upper levels of the minors. Of course, in the international market, you never want to count the Cubs out, as they hunt for value. I just think a more infield-needy team is going to be willing to spend more than Arruebarruena is worth to the Cubs as a mere “asset.”

All in all, it’s been a disappointing offseason for Cubs fans, who’ve wanted to see the Cubs make a splash or two with their available dollars. But, given the long-term plan, keeping an eye on these kinds of pieces might be the best approach for the Cubs, particularly as they head into February having spent very little, while other teams around the game may have already expended their budgets.

  • iowastate89
    • Luke

      What said in that link pretty much still applies. If he makes it he’s a back of the rotation lefty, most likely.

      We’ll see how likely that is when (probably) minor league games get underway this season. If healthy, I expect he’ll be assigned to a full season league.

  • Corey C

    Really makes sense to me. The last thing we want to do is throw money at aging players, and hope they stick.

    A la, the 2013 Angels.

  • Jon

    I’m sure Angel fans will say the last thing they want to be is a fan of a team that is poised to lose 95+ games for a third season in a row.

    When the Angels can’t sign Mike Trout because they don’t have any more $$$ then get back to me, but I fail to see the “cautionary tale” that is the Angels.

    • woody

      Kind of like the pot calling the kettle black.

    • Cizzle

      It has to do with budgeting and long term commitments. Don’t worry, politicians don’t understand those either and they deal with a lot more money.

  • mdavis

    any word on the other pitcher coming from overseas? yoon? moon? not trying to make a joke, really just don’t recall his name. I thought he potential back of rotation ability. i’d almost rather take a flyer on a guy like that then throw money at a Baker, Hammell, Maholm type.

    • mdavis

      sorry this may seem out of place. i jut meant in relation to a guy like Despaigne, would be an intriguing option to me as well.

    • Brett

      There’s a Lukewarm Stove coming later. Nothing new on Yoon, though.

  • Big Daddy

    I know this is off topic, but Brett or Luke do you still see us signing some of these free agents that have fallen through? I am talking about Nelson Cruz or some of these pitchers. It seems like the prices could be falling.

    • Brett

      Lukewarm Stove coming later.

  • DarthHater

    All I know is it sure would have been fun back in the day listening to Harry try to pronounce “Erisbel Arruebarruena” backwards. 😀

  • cms0101

    I thought I read somewhere that Iglesias could start. Oh well. With some development time needed, he could be a good signing for AA or AAA this season. Has anybody heard anything about Japanese pitcher Maeda? There are still some international free agents out there that the Cubs could sneak in on, given they’ve already blown out the budget. And I know some of those guys had restrictions placed on them, so they can’t sign until the end of April. I’d expect to hear a few more of those names going forward. Until we get a Samardzija trade though, things will be quiet I would guess.

    • mdavis

      i think last i saw maeda was going to be posted next yr instead. not sure though.

  • woody

    I have to believe that with the direction that FA pitchers salaries are escalating that drafting college level arms is the best and most cost effective way to get a TOR type into the system. I am optomistic that we can get a viable draft pick this year and next. Do I think that Theo and Jed are playing for the number one pick in 2015? It certainly appears that way. If you are going to come out and admit that you aren’t going to spend money, and that the team won’t be competative then you might as well compete in the negative standings. The most blatent example nof this was the Colts losing in order to win the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. It certainly looks like that is part of “the plan”.

  • Diehardthefirst

    Goats idea of moving Cubs to Cuba has traction.. Why bring 50 defectors here when you can move one team there?

    • brainiac

      momentum building to move the cubs to woodfield mall and rename them the mcdonalds. the team would play for hamburgers and the ball would be made of apple pie.

      • DarthHater

        They could take over a Sunglass Hut kiosk!

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