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chicago cubs logoIt’s sign-a-lower-tier-pitcher Friday!

Not content to agree to terms with Jason Hammel (reportedly), today the Chicago Cubs also agreed to a deal with righty James McDonald, formerly of the Pirates. That report comes via Bruce Levine, who says it’s a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training.

Assuming Levine is correct, McDonald is a decent add on a minor league deal, and I expect he’s got an MLB split salary put in place if he actually makes the big league roster at some point.

McDonald, 29, came to the Pirates in 2010 trade with the Dodgers. From there, McDonald had fits and spurts as a successful starter with the Pirates (who can forget his Cy Young first half in 2012 (2.37 ERA … and then a 7.52 ERA in the second half)), but fell way off in 2013 while dealing with persistent shoulder discomfort. The Pirates outrighted him in September, and he’s been a free agent ever since. Not finding a big league deal, he evidently settled for a minor league gig with the Cubs.

If the shoulder is well enough, McDonald is a fine option to slot into that 6/7/8/9 range in the rotational depth pool. In his last healthy year with the Pirates in 2012, McDonald posted an ERA of 4.21 over 171 innings. His FIP was also 4.21. Hey, his xFIP was also 4.21. This is a guy who knows how to pair his output to his performance!

For his career, McDonald has struck out 7.8 per 9, while walking 4.1 per 9. He had some bullpen experience earlier in his career, and may have to settle into a swing role going forward if he’s going to make another big league team. Whether it’ll be the Cubs depends on a number of factors external to his performance – injuries, trades, etc. – as well as how he looks in the Spring. If he doesn’t make the team, he could head to Iowa and hang around as depth, or it’s possible he’ll be turned loose to seek another opportunity.

  • Javier Bryant

    What’s the Iowa rotation shaping up to be now? Grimm, Marshall, Hendricks?

    • mike

      Hendricks
      Grimm
      N.Ramirez
      Rusin

      5th starter could be Raley, A.Cabrera (if he doesn’t make the pen and clears waivers), Jokisch, Wada, McDonald, Brett Marshall, etc.

      It’s for this very reason I’d be stunned to see Beeler not start in AA.

    • Jason P

      Grimm, Marshall, Hendricks, Jokisch, Beeler, Raley, Sanchez, Mcdonald, and perhaps Negrin all in the mix.

      Hopefully, the rotation ends up being the first 5 with Raley moving permanently to the bullpen along with Sanchez and Mcdonald, and Negrin getting cut.

      • Jason P

        And I forgot about Neil Ramirez and Tsuyoshi Wada. I think Rusin starts with the ML Cubs.

        • gocatsgo2003

          Rusin in the bullpen? Looks like it would be hard to break into a rotation that already has (in no particular order) Shark, EJax, Hammel, and Wood pretty much locked in with Arrieta, Ramirez, Villanueva, and others fighting for the fifth spot.

          • Jason P

            I was thinking in the bullpen, but it is getting pretty crowded.
            Villanueva
            Russell
            Wright
            Veras
            Strop
            Parker
            Cabrera
            Rondon

            At least one of those players will have to get the boot if the Cubs go with the traditional 7-man bullpen. I guess it would have to be Cabrera, but I’d hate to lose him.

            If this is the year Russell’s peripherals finally catch up with him, I could see Rusin getting a shot as the second lefty. And of course there are always injuries.

            • IA_Colin

              It’s nice to have a crowded crew. Can boil off some filler and have competition the whole time. The pitching in camp should be interesting.

        • CubsFaninMS

          So if Tsuyoshi Wada breaks camp with the big league squad, we will call him Walk On Wada?

          Sorry, my jokes run rampant today.

        • J-Nasty

          Is Barret Loux still in the mix for the Iowa rotation?

          • Jason P

            He probably is, but I doubt he actually gets one. At 25 years old and fringe stuff, he pretty much is what he is.

  • juice

    I like this pickup. Could be a serviceable guy.

  • itzscott

    Just wondering if these deals might be the preface to a Samardzjia trade for a haul of pitching prospects that might not be ready for another year or two.

    • juice

      always a possibility. Probably won’t hear anything until after sharks arbitration hearing

  • NorthSideIrish

    I kinda like it as a reclamation project. Not much risk in a minor league deal with a ST invite.

  • CubsFaninMS

    I’m lovin’ it!!!

  • Serious Cubs Fan

    Anyway we still could still possibly sign Maholm? Maybe on 2yr deal? I know it highly unlikely but would be worth while.

    • Serious Cubs Fan

      Sign Maholm on a 2yr. $13mil-14mil deal. Arietta still has minor league options. Season him in Iowa then, trade Hammell and Maholm midseason for prospects. If a deal can’t be reached with Samardzija then you flip him too

      • DarthHater

        Jake is 27 years old. It’s time for him to sink or swim at the ML level.

      • Ron Swansons Mustache

        Nope. They need to see what they have in Arrieta.

      • ArrietasUncle

        I believe Jake will be given every opportunity to make the 2014 rotation.

  • Cheese Chad

    I’ve got a shark question. Bosio seems to be a magician with done of these free agents who’ve lost a little if their stuff. Samardjia seems to have great stuff but can’t consistently put it together. Is it a case of bosio not knowing how to handle shark? Is shark not listening to his teachings? Or is it just as simple as shark sometimes has it and sometimes he doesn’t?

    • Funn Dave

      Without speaking from a position of knowledge, I’m guessing it’s that third option. I see what you’re getting at–that Shark’s weaknesses do not match up well with Bosio’s strengths–and it’s definitely worth mentioning, and something I hadn’t thought of before at that. But I think that since Jeff sometimes has it and sometimes doesn’t, it’s more on him than on his pitching coach to make sure that he’s in the zone, performing as well as he can 100% of the time.

  • ssckelley

    I wonder if his cousin Darnell had something to do with him agreeing to sign here on a minor league deal.

  • Pat

    So that’s 15 minor league free agents signed this year. You’d think if our system was really so awesome we wouldn’t need to pick up everyone else’s garbage. And before all the cries of “every team does this”, look at the transaction log and find another team with a dozen or more. Quick glance shows the WS champion Red Sox with 7 and the drafting ahead of us White Sox with 4.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I’ll dispute those facts, but more importantly, what exactly is your point? That they shouldn’t make these signings? That they have to because they’re so shitty at building a farm system? Let’s get some clarity on what you’re trying to communicate.

      • DarthHater

        “Let’s get some clarity on what you’re trying to communicate.”

        Ohhh, let’s not. Please.

      • Pat

        Dispute away….

        http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/teams/transactions/BOS/boston-red-sox

        My point it that your, and everyone else’s contention that every team signs a billion cast offs to minor league deals is bullshit. I thought that was fairly clear.

        • DarthHater

          So the Cubs FO is doing a good job of finding and signing talent that other teams are overlooking! Thanks for helping us better appreciate what a great job they are doing, Pat!

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          No one has ever contended that every team signs as many minor league deals as the Cubs have.

          The point has always been that al teams make these deals. And they do. Who gives a crap how many no risk signings the Cubs make? It’s not like James McDonald prevented them from getting Tanaka.

          So, again, what’s your point?

          • hansman

            The problem was, they didn’t sign him BEFORE not getting Tanaka. Then they would have been able to get Tanaka.

          • Diehardthefirst

            As long as Cubs play clip of Abbott and Costello Who’s on First on Jumbotron all will be forgiven if not forgotten

        • Jon

          I didn’t know Rich Hill was still hanging around?..good ole “1 pitch Rich”.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            Was a hell of a pitch, though.

        • Cubsleeram

          el oh el. Calm down Pat; There’s no need to be sassy *and* irrational. Pick a lane.

        • Pat

          The Astros had 4. Cardinals, 1.

          Yankess at 10 is the closet I found, and we’re still 50% above that. Can we now kill the narrative that every team does this?

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            Your numbers are dookie.

            I count 19(!) for the White Sox: http://chicago.whitesox.mlb.com/team/transactions.jsp?c_id=cws#month=11&year=2013&team_id=145

            You have to actually check the original source.

            • DarthHater

              [img]http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8551/8705395082_71435b7e84_o.jpg[/img]

            • hansman

              Eh…even his counting of the numbers from his source was WAAAAAAAAAAY off.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett
              • hansman

                Nah…who’s counting. Pat sure as hell isn’t.

              • Pat

                Wow, you’re getting different numbers using a different source, amazing!

                • TWC

                  The team’s website is *the* source, Pat. Not “a different source”. *The* source.

                  • DarthHater

                    Wow, I wouldn’t have thought a hippie would be so authoritarian.

                    • TWC

                      Hanging out with Sith has had a corrupting influence.

                    • DarthHater

                      Another do-gooder succumbs to the power of the Dark Side. Yes!

                • ssckelley

                  This is making you look like an idiot. Be a man and admit you were wrong. It’s ok!

                • hansman

                  Hell, I got different numbers using YOUR source.

                • CubsFaninMS

                  Simmer down, douchapotamus.

            • Pat

              The MLB.com list includes their own players (I.e. Dylan Axlerod). The Cubs also show 19 according to that list.

              The CBS list does now show 10, was 6 when I looked this up a week or so ago.

              • Jason P

                You’re still are yet to tell us what’s wrong with minor league signings.

            • MattyNomad

              Lol! dookie….

          • Carew

            If all teams were listed to having at least 1, then all teams do it.

            • juice

              exactly. They are just plugging holes until better options come around. Taking minor league flyers on these guys is basically just inviting them for a tryout. What’s the problem with that? If they are good, bring them along. If not, see ya! Makes no sense in paying for higher, middle of the road free agents to multi year deals and then paying them to sit on the bench when the better prospects rise to the majors.

          • hansman

            Holy hell, you actually got a couple right.

    • Funn Dave

      I think it’s pretty well established that our farm’s strength lies in its position players (although pitching looks better and better). Why wouldn’t they address their weakness?

      • TWC

        Because, for some people, all they care to say is “fuck the fucking Cubs who fucking suck at everything”. For others, when they see a minor league signing, it’s “meh, whatever, I’m going to forget about this guy anyway, so who fucking cares”.

        Remember that Max Ramirez singing back in January ’11? Yeah, no one else does either. But fuck the fucking Cubs for doing it, right?

        • hansman

          Is there a YouTube video of him singing? I am sure it would be a hoot.

          • DarthHater

            I see what you did there.

    • hansman

      The Red Sox signed 8 minor league deals.

      The Yankees signed 10.

      The Dodgers signed 14.

      What is your point?

      • TWC

        Woo-HOO! We’re beating the Dodgers! (At *something*…)

      • brainiac

        i’ll tell you the point. jed is doing a terrible job. mcleod is doing an amazing job. theo is playing PR for his bosses. and we might or might not be good in another 3 years, but for now we’re a terrible team doing substandard management of our mlb roster.

    • hansman

      Also, the White Sox had 10…plus they drafted a Rule V guy.

    • hansman

      And this would be the Cubs 16th minor league signing.

  • Funn Dave

    I approve.

  • FortyFour

    Shark will be sent packing sooner or later. Hammel will be flipped as this year’s Feldman/Maholm if he can produce. Rusin, Grimm, and Hendricks along with McDonald are the next men up for replacing those two or anyone that struggles or gets hurt. Vizccaino may be just doing the bullpen thing this year and possibly next before getting another chance to be starter again.

  • Steve

    We could field an unbeatable all star team of smart asses from this forum….and I like it!!!

    • DarthHater

      [img]http://31.media.tumblr.com/8f5eec2af74cc27233303dd6c0cad186/tumblr_mo05yrJtha1r76lino1_400.gif[/img]

  • Diehardthefirst

    Wish Yosh Kawano was still around- he’d be flipping out trying to figure out uniform numbers

  • brainiac

    gotta love jed’s waiver line obsession. someday he’s going to win the lottery. it’ll be a two dollar scratch-off ticket, but not an injured or washed up player.

    • IA_Colin

      That next Vogelsong, or Brandon McCarthy. James Mac put up a biiig half season. There’s potential.

      • brainiac

        there’s always a chance… i don’t know why the team preferences outside chances instead of guaranteed progress but what do i know anymore. it all works out for the business model. does baseball even count anymore?

  • IA_Colin

    Anyone think that the Cubs are using minor league free agent pitchers as a form of compensation for a lack of “pitching prospects” at the upper minors ? When it comes down to it what’s the difference in value from say a James McDonald or (Random B rated pitching prospect)? I’ve got a theory that scouting reports are overvalued on prospects and undervalued or ignored on major league players.

  • Bill

    It’s kind of funny how angry people get from one person making a statement about all of the Cubs minor league signings. I think it’s kind of meh. This one might be a decent one, but again, 99% of the time it’s meh. However, some on here are bordering on throwing a temper tantrum from Pat’s comment. Why are you getting all worked up over a player who will probably never do a thing for the major league team?

    • TWC

      No one really gives a shit about James McDonald. Really. No one. ‘Cept for his mom.

      Everyone, however, *is* making fun of the hissy fit that Pat threw about the Cubs “pick[ing] up everyone else’s garbage”, especially after he doubled- (and tripled-) down on his obstinacy.

      • Bill

        The Cubs are “picking up everyone else’s garbage” but as the saying goes, “one mans trash is another man’s treasure”. It would be nice if the Cubs were actually picking up useful players who will help the major league team so we didn’t have to talk about the James McDonald’s. What’s sad is we are talking about him because Theo has basically done nothing this winter, in regards to improving the team that will be playing in Chi.

        • Diehardthefirst

          He’s treading water while the kids are swimming upstream to rescue him in 2015

          • Bill

            He’s drowning and in a best case scenario the kids won’t be able to rescue him before 2017/2018.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          I mean, they did just sign Hammel like an hour earlier.

          • Bill

            After that move their odds of making the playoffs improved from .000099% to .00010%.

    • DarthHater

      Gee, Bill, no need to hyperventilate and shriek hysterically just because the administrator of the site and few other people calmly corrected some factual inaccuracies in someone else’s posts.

      • jp3

        Damn what did I miss?

      • hansman

        It’s always fun to hyperventilate and shriek hysterically when folks get counting wrong.

      • Bill

        Thanks for proving my point Darth.

  • Cubz99

    I feel sorry for Brett because he has to write up posts about these crappy minor league/major league signings and try to make them sound even somewhat interesting. I can’t wait for the day, when we can actually get excited for a signing and we can actually be happy that the player being signed is to help the team win and not in hopes that he plays remarkable enough to flip at the trade deadline.

    • Diehardthefirst

      Yea he should take a break and write about Schumer scandal that could involve MLB front office- congressional hearings are fun to cover

    • Bill

      Cubz99, I agree. I bet Brett hoped he had bigger stories to write about. He probably would be happy if he didn’t have to write about this because the Cubs were doing so many other, more important moves.

  • baldtaxguy

    These comments were a fun read.

    • Ivy Eater

      I honestly was going to give a compliment about how much more enjoyable it is reading through these posts than it is dealing with the people on MLBTR. Then Pat came along and did this.

  • Diehardthefirst

    If your right then he will be with the fishes

  • Diehardthefirst

    Giving Theo benefit of doubt he’s laying groundwork for 10 player trade

  • RoscoeVillageFan

    Years later which McDonald will you remember?!? Carry On

  • Bill

    Old McDonald, who had a farm.

  • http://BN Sacko

    Yeah, we are signing SP and people I actually know..my hope is we are around .500 in July and see what we are going to do with all these guys.

  • Rooster

    If signing a 31 yr old is our biggest splash in free agency I will consider 2014 one to forget. I will not re-up with Directv until the Cubs put a contender on the field. That looks to be 2015 or 2016 at the earliest.

    With 2014 a wash why don’t we start to look at 2015 where the Cubs are projected to have the #1 pick. In 2014 we will be picking 4th overall behind the Sox who will steal one of our biggest needs (catcher). Although nabbing big Tyler Kolek will be a nice consolation prize.

    The 2015 draft has an intriguing set of prospects in terms of bats. Outfielder Daz Cameron, Florida prep shortstop Brendan Rogers and Texas Christian righthander Riley Ferrell seem to be the top 3 at this point. Daz is the son of Mike. This material is more intriguing than a 31 yr old FLIPPER signed for $6 million.

    • KQ

      If Trea Turner is around at the 4th pick I cant see the cubs passing on him hes just too good. 80 grade RUN. Cubs will never draft on need in the first round.

      • Rooster

        Defense and speed is intriguing. Turner’s main asset is his speed but his bat could be a tick above average. I wouldn’t be upset with them going with ‘Burner’. KQ you may be right too, his stock may rise all the way to #1 they’re whispering. Seems like the big question with him is IF he’s around at #4. A top defender in the field and a burner on the basepaths is what we will probably need with our system loaded with power bats.

    • baldtaxguy

      “If signing a 31 yr old is our biggest splash in free agency I will consider 2014 one to forget. I will not re-up with Directv until the Cubs put a contender on the field.”

      You will give up watching baseball for the year? I could never….

  • http://BN Sacko

    Hey Rooster I like your info on the draft picks but I’m still happy about finally signing someone like Hammels, what difference he really makes I don’t know but I’m going to pay close attention to how we are doing and who is doing what and so will you. I’m not going to buy any extra coverage either.
    The reality of it all is when the hot stove starts in July and I’m counting at least 6 familiar names that will be traded at least…again, so those drafts are nice to know about.

  • Rooster

    I like the flippable assets we have. Shark is as good as gone I do believe. If Mueller can fix Barney’s swing then maybe he nets a small return. We’ve seen so many hitting coaches over the last few years. He did help the Red Sox end their drought in 2004 as a player. Tennessee and Iowa are more intriguing than the bigs. If Ricketts could force his hand with the rooftop owners and get this project underway it’d sooth the pain.
    The call up to the bigs for Javier and Kris is the question. Do they wait til September with a lost season or do they pull them up at the end of June?

  • http://BN Sacko

    It really is all about the minors these days isn’t it. They almost all have to show up or we are going to see the same pattern of what we are doing now for another 2 yrs at least.
    If we are doing the right thing with this plan how can someone say the Yankees have been doing the wrong thing all these years.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      What the Yankees did the “right” was develop a core of high OPS players at skill positions: Jeter/Knoblauch-Sori-Cano/Williams-Granderson/Posada. Only Knobby was (if I remember) was an FA: the others were either farmhands or acquired with farmhands.

      The Yanks are going to have problems going forward in big part because they will be getting poor OPS from SS and 2nd, and that will be very difficult for them to fix: there probably will not be any decent FAs who can play MI in the near future and they do not have miLB talent to trade for those players. Moreover, although Els and McCann are big upgrades, both have had injury issues.

      Where FAs really helped the Yanks was in starting pitching: they aggressively pursued almost every quality starter out there, and they have been successful in landing a few. However, the FA market for good starters also has been thin, and unfortunately for the Yanks, some of the big names have had their sights set on the Wst Coast all along. Their staff might well he weK this year again: Kuroda is old, CC is declining and Pettite probably will stay retired this time!

      • pete

        Actually, they traded Cristian Guzman and some other really good young players (when the Yanks had a real good system) for Knoblauch but Doc is otherwise spot on. Their farm system served them very well for a long period of time, which not enough people appreciate, but it is now sliding into disrepair.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Ah, right: I couldn’t remember for certain! (I was waiting through my son’s class and on my iPhone: with lousy signal, I sometimes lose a page if I go googling on another one!)

          Of course, that means that the Yanks built that strong core entirely through the farm. The Yanks’ deep pockets were important: they were able to keep Jeter and Williams when a lot of teams would have lost them, and I am pretty sure that Knoblauch signed a big (but short) contract right after he joined the Yanks. But the real freedom it provided was that the Yanks had easier-to-fill vacancies (1B & corner OF) than most teams have.

      • Fastball

        My buddy in NY says Yankees will JD Drew to play for them before ST starts. Big doubts on Jeter being able to play everyday at SS. Drew would be a solid pickup and improve the offense. I think Jeter is washed up at SS. I doubt he makes out ST without leg issues popping up.

        • mjhurdle

          i would be astonished if the Yankees turn to a 38 year old RF that hasn’t played since 2011 to man SS for them..

          • jp3

            Ha;). He’s an injury prone RF to boot, I guess he played some 1B at Florida state and could probably man the position.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          lol. Your buddy is fitting the “Bernie Bronx” Yankee fan caricature by confusing the two Drew brothers!

          The rumor (which seems sensible) is that the Yanks are interested in acquiring the Stephen Drew to play 2nd, but that Drew wants to sign with someone with whom he’ll play SS. Of course, Jeter is adamant about returning to SS, and he basically has gotten the Ripken treatment by the Yanks. (That is quite odd: historically, they’ve cast off guys who were past their primes.) The Yanks have to know that Jeter easily might not be able to play SS (or at all) again, though.

          It will be an interesting call, and I doubt that any of us will live to see the Yanks again have a SS situation such as they have enjoyed for the last 18 years.

  • newsguy23

    Feeling once again that Brett is on the Cubs payroll. Isn’t this a site where fans can dispute what they choose. Evidently not . So sick of commenters getting a beat down for speaking their mind. FYI if I dare to have an opinion yes I think Hammels is a who gives a crap signing. The cubs now have a 3 a 4 and a bunch of 5 thru 10’s . I Have no problem with minor league depth I just don’t want a crappy rotation. If anyone thinks this rotation is solid you must know a lot more than me.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I’d like to know where someone was, by me, prohibited from “disput[ing] what they choose” or “getting a beat down for speaking their mind.” Just one instance of that would help provide a little context. (And if you’re referring to Pat’s stuff, well, I think it was well-established that the issue was his “facts,” not his opinion.)

      You should also note that I’ve said in several places that the Cubs’ rotation scares me. But, guess what? 2014 is going to suck regardless. I’ve said that, too! I must be on the Cubs’ payroll!

      (Whose payroll are you on, by the way, newsguy?)

      • HislersHero

        Stop being on the Cubs payroll, Brett.

        Also, I like the signing. Good depth signing low risk move and if he is where he was pre-arm problems, it will be good for the Cubs.

    • baldtaxguy

      I mostly see challenges to comments that are contrary to fact. I think that was the notable case in these comments. Speaking your mind does not automatically mean its the truth and when its not, bullshit is its name.

      Nowhere I have read have I seen the rotation described as “solid.” I’ll read further.

    • Cubz99

      You are being a little more than unfair to Brett. I can’t imagine watching this disaster of a team and off season and trying to figure out ways to put a positive spin on it or even try to make it interesting. For that, he has done a pretty good job. Even though I am not as optimistic as he is in regard to some transactions, at least he is much more neutral and fair than some Cubs blogs and media.

      In regard to the most recent signings you are dead on and barring some ridiculous overproduction from a couple guys it is probably the worst rotation in recent history. Personally, I don’t think a large market team like the Cubs should need this long to rebuild and although I loved the Epstein/Hoyer hiring, I’m beginning to question whether or not they need the large market payroll in order to field a competitive major league team.

    • mjhurdle

      “Isn’t this a site where fans can dispute what they choose.”
      This is a site where fans can dispute what they choose, including other fan’s opinions.
      If someone is going to offer up their opinion on the comment boards, other fans can dispute those opinions, especially if they involving making up wrong statistics. That has nothing to do with Brett and whether or not he is on the Cub’s payroll.

      As far as Brett goes, I think he simply leans more toward the optimistic side. I am a pretty optimistic Cub fan. When deals happen, like Hammels, optimistic fans look to the good that it brings, and how it could help. Pessimistic fans look at the problems it didn’t solve and how it can go badly. neither side is necessarily wrong, just different outlooks on things that are yet to happen.
      if Brett was writing articles about how the Baker signing was the best 5.5 million ever spent by the Cubs, or how perfectly they handled the Ian Stewart signings; then maybe I could see him being a Cub mouthpiece.
      But if all you can point to is that he is optimistic, then that is a pretty weak argument.

  • Fastball

    Of course they do. See our roster>payroll. It is the worst in baseball. Thus the 95+ loss seasons. Piss poor players/talent= 95+ losses. Can’t blame Brett for trying to be a positive minded guy. Rather be optimistic than swim in negativity all the time. I would like to hear him vent sometimes just to change things up.

  • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

    Wow I actually missed another version of BetterMath.

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