Cubs Confirm Jason Hammel and James McDonald on Big League Deals, Jake Arrieta Has Shoulder Tightness

jake arrietaAt a press conference in Mesa, the Chicago Cubs just confirmed the signings of Jason Hammel and James McDonald to one-year, big league contracts. We’ll get into the McDonald deal once the terms are known. I expressed my reservations about giving McDonald a big league deal last evening, but I’m open to being persuaded.

The bigger news came from Jed Hoyer, in discussing the signings, mentioned that the Cubs were looking for a little extra depth in light of some shoulder tightness Jake Arrieta felt this offseason. He didn’t go into detail, saying only that it has set him back a little bit, and he’ll come along slowly. So, that there explains away some of my concerns about the big league deal for McDonald, at least terms of the roster/rotational issues it could create.

Hopefully the Arrieta issue isn’t serious, and I expect we’ll hear more in the coming days. If Arrieta isn’t ready to start the season in the rotation, presumably McDonald, Chris Rusin, and Carlos Villanueva will fight for that spot.

(I believe I heard Epstein say that Justin Grimm will be coming to camp as a reliever, by the way.)

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

114 responses to “Cubs Confirm Jason Hammel and James McDonald on Big League Deals, Jake Arrieta Has Shoulder Tightness”

  1. Kyle

    They had better have one hell of a good scouting read on McDonald. It seems so terrible that I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

    1. DarthHater

      So the FO is entitled to the benefit of the doubt when they do something apparently stupid, but get no such benefit when they do something apparently smart. Got it. The iron fist of logic moves in mysterious ways, its wonders to perform…

      1. Kyle

        When have they ever not gotten the benefit of the doubt for doing something smart?

        1. DarthHater

          I’ll tell you when I stop laughing.

          1. Kyle

            I’ll wait.

  2. Cheese Chad

    I hate hearing injury news. We don’t need any of the “wrath” the day pitchers and catchers report.

    1. DarthHater

      Speaking of wrath. I think the whole “God’s Wrath” thing is played out, Brett. How about something less religiously loaded, like the Flying Fickle Finger of Fate?

      1. Jon

        Judging by the anit-Gay comments from the past couple of days, “religiously loaded” themes are perfect for this sites primary target market.

        1. Isaac


        2. CubFanBob

          I forgot everything on the internet is true and a few anonymous people posting “anti gay anything” reflect an entire Cub’s blog primary user base. /palm-slap to the forehead.

          1. Jon

            You, We, are not anonymous.

            1. itzscott

              Something tells me that you’re the sensitive type that cries during the evening news.

              1. miggy80

                Something tells me you’re the sensitive type that ignores the 1st, loves the 2nd, pleads the 5th and doesn’t understand the 14th Amendment.

              2. Edwin

                strong men also cry.

                1. TWC

                  You mind if I do a J?

                  1. Edwin

                    Her life was in your hands dude.

                    1. Joshua Edwards

                      Mr. Lebowski asked me to repeat that. Her life is in your hands.

      2. Hebner The Gravedigger

        I would like to see Wrath of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

        1. DocPeterWimsey


          1. Professional High A

            I am upset that I wasnt the first to post “flying spaghetti monster” and not the least bit surprised that Doc was there give it a +10. +10 to anyone that has also been touched by his noodly appendage.

            1. miggy80

              I had a friend go as the flying spaghetti monster on Halloween when his wife was/went as “Prego”

              1. Brocktoon

                The Flying Spaghetti Monster shit is so fucking lame

              2. DocPeterWimsey

                lol, that is outstanding. We have a FSM ornament on our Yuletide tree. We also have at least a couple of Cubs ornaments, too.

  3. Kyle

    Yes, you did hear that Grimm is in camp as a reliever.

  4. Sacko

    I’m all for Grimm for starting opposed to Rusin and Carlos. I think Grimm is also ahead of McDonald.

    1. CubFan Paul

      I’d like to see the full Hoyer quotes

      1. Kyle

        The press conference is still going on:

        They were going over possible starting pitchers and a reporter asked about Grimm, and he just said “Grimm is in camp as a reliever.”

        1. CubFan Paul

          I’m guessing because there’s already 6-7 guys ahead of him

        2. Funn Dave

          Ahh, that explains why it only made it into the article as a “by the way.”

  5. Kyle

    Fujikawa is throwing off flat ground and should be throwing from a mound soon. That would seem to put him on back for a shockingly quick return if there are no setbacks.

    1. ssckelley

      That is great news and might explain why they did not put him on the 60 day DL to protect another player.

    2. ThatCubsGuy

      Wow wasn’t expecting that at all. Thought he will be able to pitch post All Star break

  6. Cheese Chad

    Rumor has it Walker has shoulder soreness per McClendon from Big League Stew.

    1. Jon

      The Mariners make so much perfect sense for a Shark trade, but if no Walker than it’s tough to justify any of their other prospects. Maybe get a “three way” going with another team?

      1. willis

        I love when those nights happen.

        1. Cheese Chad


  7. Kyle

    Wada seems to be higher on the depth chart than I expected for the rotation.

    1. college_of_coaches

      What are your thoughts on him? I ask because there hasn’t been much discussion about his signing.

      1. Kyle

        I have none. I honestly know pretty much nothing about him.

  8. Serious Cubs Fan

    I personally think Theo/Jed made a huge mistake signing James McDonald to a big league deal. They know baseball more then me but I seriously question why he deserved a big league deal. He had a good half season a couple years ago and thats pretty much it. I’d rather of held on to Brett Marshall for the upside. Bosio has his work cut for himself with trying to fix this guy

    1. Norm

      Milton Bradley was a huge mistake.
      James McDonald is, at worst, a very very minor mistake.

      1. Serious Cubs Fan

        Sorry I should clarify not a huge mistake. I minor mistake*. They must really think Bosio could fix McDonald. Bosio’s a great pitching coach but I don’t see it

    2. Jon

      James McDonald has proven major league success. Albeit short. But he was dominant for a 1/2 season of processional baseball(no too long ago). He also has the physical profile to boot.

      Brett Marshall is a scrub and has done nothing at the big league level at this point. I’ll trust the FO on this one.

    3. ssckelley

      Perhaps the Cubs got a good look at Marshall and was not impressed. At 23 and reading the scouting reports on Marshall he looked intriguing.

  9. Kyle

    Epstein specifically said Valbuena and Murphy expected to get most of the time at third early in the season, refused to get into anything specific on Olt other than “we’ll just see how he looks in spring.”

    1. Jon

      So much for the 260/330/460 +25HRs everyone was penciling Olt in for :)

      1. willis

        If that is the case…it makes the infield situation in AAA much more interesting. What do they do with Villanueva and Olt? Play Olt at 1B?

      2. Bilbo161

        Yeah but its ok to dream.

        I was hoping Olt and Arietta would be quick successes this season and give a boost to the fans. May have to put my hopes on Lake, Strope, Grimm etc. Hey there are actually a number of guys that have the potential to be exciting newcomers. I’ll stay upbeat for now.

    2. Norm

      I think that’s a fair expectation at this point. Olt has to prove he can see.

      1. Cheese Chad

        Yeah otherwise he won’t be able to play baseball or be an astronaut.

        1. Eternal Pessimist

          Just give him a seeing eye-dog and a bat and let’s see what happens :)

    3. JacqueJones

      That can’t be right, CubFanPaul has been insisting that Hoyer gave Olt the starting 3B job for so long now!

      1. CubFan Paul

        I haven’t been insisting anything.

        That’s what he told Bruce Levine.

        1. JacqueJones

          No it’s not, that’s why you could never provide any links to such comments. You possibly misheard something, but you were simply wrong.

          1. CubFan Paul

            No, you just don’t listen to Levine’s show. Troll elsewhere.

            1. JacqueJones

              aparently no one that reports on the cubs listens to levines show then, because no one reported what you said.

              1. CubFan Paul

                Great. You’re RIGHT. You didn’t hear so it’s not true.

                1. Funn Dave

                  If you can’t provide a link and there is no evidence whatsoever that he made such a statement, then what? We’re just supposed to go off of hearsay?

                  1. CubFan Paul

                    I don’t know or care.

                    It’s not my job to provide links to over the air shows. That’s Brett’s job, if it’s news.

                    1. JacqueJones

                      it becomes your job in an argument when you make claims that you can’t defend with anything other than, i heard it on the radio. When you continually say, “The FO is saying Olt will start” then it is logical for others to question where you get this information from. The fact that the FO literally just said Olt will not be starting, proves you have just been blowing smoke this whole time

                    2. CubFan Paul

                      Jacque, i’d tell you to blow me but i’m trying not to break the new rules.

                      Troll elsewhere.

                    3. bbmoney

                      It’s not Paul’s job to provide a link if he doesn’t want to, it is the internet.

                      But shoot man, why are you getting so upset? Someone doesn’t believe you on the internet……how will you survive….

      2. DarthHater

        I’m not sure wtf you guys are arguing about, but Levine has definitely said that Hoyer said that Olt will get lion’s share of playing time at 3B in Iowa. Not in Chicago.

        1. StevenR

          I think they’re saying that Murphy/Valbuena is gonna start the season as the 3B platoon to take pressure off Olt. The man has enough pressure on himself just proving he’s healthy and can see well enough to hit. They cover their bases by saying the platoon is out there to begin the season, while also taking some pressure off Olt, so he can just go out there and do what he can. If he hits well in the spring, then I have little doubt he’ll be starting at 3B opening day, until then though….

          1. Kyle

            Or maybe they just mean it.

  10. willis

    Ugh, shoulder tightness already…to the one guy I was most interested in seeing this spring. It never ends, does it?

  11. Kyle

    Nothing earth-shattering, but that was a content-heavy press conference. So glad ST is here.

  12. MightyBear

    Rent = Belly Fire!!!!

  13. MightyBear

    FYI Watch out for Hendricks with two spots open.

    1. Jason P

      Better than giving it to Wada or McDonald.

  14. ssckelley

    Renteria has already named Veras the closer.

  15. Jon

    Mark Gonzales ‏@MDGonzales 55s

    McDonald 1 year, $1 million. non-guaranteed. Hammel 1 year, $6 mil.

  16. Kyle

    Renteria may think that Castro’s first name is “Starling.”

    1. DocPeterWimsey

      I initially read it “Stalin”: that made an amusing combo!

  17. Serious Cubs Fan

    Not going to happen but if Arrieta plays most of the year in the minors, his lack service time in the bigs, will allow the Cubs to gain an additional year of control of Arrieta. I know this is pretty much a make or break year for him but that be a nice perk, bc I think even if he doesn’t pan out as SP I think he’d be a very good RP bc the stuff is amazing

  18. Tremendous Slouch

    Speaking of a Samardzija trade… and maybe this has been propsed here already, but is there any chance the Rays would look at him as a potential center piece along with one of the big 4 and a couple of other prospects in the 10 to 20 range for Price? They’re pretty much the same age, but Tampa could potentially afford to sign Shark to a long term deal and pick up prospects from a deep system in the process…

    We get the ace we need to build around for “potential” competitiveness over the next 5 to 6 seasons (assuming Price agrees to a long term extention and I obviously don’t do the deal if he doesn’t) and don’t have to ransom a good portion of the top 10 prospects to get him…

    I’ll admit I’m not as invested in the numbers side of the game as most that post here, so have at it… Does this make sense/strike up any interesting debate?

    1. Jon

      I don’t think the Rays, who are looking to deal their ace because his arbitration years are ending and he’s becoming expensive, will trade for a guy who’s arb years and ending and is becoming expensive.

      1. Tremendous Slouch

        I’m with ya… but my thought process is that Shark would be cheaper and in turn the Rays may be able to afford to sign him as opposed to Price who will definitely be too expensive…

        1. Johnny Chess

          For get Price he will be on DL by All Star break

    2. YourResidentJag

      Again, I’m going to offer this: Stroman + Tirado + plus 2 prospects is a solid trade and it doesn’t have to include Sanchez.

    3. D-Rock

      I don’t think the Cubs would trade Shark, one of the big 4, and another prospect in the 10-20 range just for Price. That’s a huge “price” for 1 pitcher. The Cubs are looking to deal Shark for top pitching prospects, not deal our best hitting prospects AND Shark for 1 pitcher.

      1. CubFan Paul

        The Rays could always throw in more pieces alongside Price…

        1. Jon

          Chris Archer ? :)

  19. Senor Cub

    Here is rooting for Arrieta and McDonald. I am a bit surprised that the FO feels the bullpen is a bit “thin” given the enormous amount of bodies collected for this reason alone. It begs the question, why so many arms in what seems like a crowded bullpen if they still feel they need help. Get rid of some of those arms. Maybe sell 10 bad arms for a good arm. :)

    1. CubFan Paul

      There could definitely be a Spring Training trade with that depth

      1. brickhouse

        Very few trades are made during spring traing and if they are made they are usually very minor.

        1. CubFan Paul

          Yeah but when you have depth/surplus, you have depth/surplus for moves/improvements elsewhere

          1. brickhouse

            I don’t see depth / surplus – I see a need to upgrade many positions

            1. CubFan Paul

              Senor Cub’s topic was the crowded bullpen. That’s depth/surplus.

  20. A Little More on James McDonald’s $1 Million Contract | Bleacher Nation | Chicago Cubs News, Rumors, and Commentary

    […] it all up, and together with the Jake Arrieta injury news, and this particular deal for McDonald makes a little more sense to me than it did last […]

  21. cubsfan1594

    I expect Carlos Villanueva to be traded either during spring training or early in the season

  22. Fastball

    Camp hasn’t even started for postion players and guys are being move to the other side of the infield and all kinds of jumping to conclusions. Theo probably said Val and Murph would play at 3b because he doesn’t want a lot of pressure on Olt day one.

    Arietta it seems has had an issue throughout the winter. So they spring that on day 1. Like that. Can’t wait for the new tomorrow.

  23. willis

    Doesn’t sound like Arrieta will be ready for the season when it starts. Sucks.

  24. Jason P

    If Grimm’s going to be a reliever, then there’s nothing left for him to prove at Iowa. He needs a spot in the bullpen. The problem is, there are about 4 or 5 guys competing for 1 spot right now.

  25. Fastball

    I wouldn’t call all those bull pen spots wrapped up. Except for maybe 3 none of the rest are world beaters. Nobody is going to say we have one of the better bull pens in baseball. So I would imagine if a handful of guys out perform the field they could easily bounce someone out. I would like to know why Arietta has had an issue most of the winter and it just gets announced today he has should tightness. Well being an ex pitcher I do not buy that story. He probably has something a little more than tightness. This is historically the Cubs way of saying he is going to need should surgery. Get the Towel Drill going Bosio. But its only 1 big surprise so far. What will happen in the coming days always worries me with the Cubs at ST. Hopefully they have banned hot tubs and condos with staircases and there is a no pets allowed during ST rule. Just trying to pre-empt any stupid shit from happening.

    1. DocPeterWimsey

      The number of bullpen guys in all of MLB who can be called “world-beaters” can be counted on one hand, even after knife-juggling accidents! (Indeed, any pitcher on the Cubs who remotely looks like a world-beater should be in the starting rotation.)

      The question is, will they be wretchedly bad? Obviously, it’s really hard to guesstimate how relievers will do, given how little they actually work each year. However, the current bullpen crew doesn’t seem to have too many guys who will single handedly win arbitration cases for batters on other teams.

  26. woody

    All this talk about pitching, but the offense is the thing that is going to sink this team. The frustration I saw last year as Shark and Wood left games with a lead only to lose. A few times you could tell Shark was pissed because he knew he would see that lead evaporate. It seemed like we would get a few runs early on and spot them a lead and the not be able to score for the rest of the game. I just don’t see it happening. Sure Rizzo and Castro could come back strong and Lake and Olt could surprise, but all of them have to do it. Even if the bullpen is much better we have to put up more that two or three runs. I actually have more hope for Castro than I do for Rizzo. Castro went back to his old approach and ended the season on a high note. Rizzo just plain sucked the last half of the season. I know everybody is saying it was bad luck and his BABIP, but I’m not sure that it wasn’t more due to teams exploiting his weaknesses with the shift and pounding the ball inside. They are going to do the same thing again this year. And again he’ll be exposed in the middle of the order without a threat before or after him. I just don’t see this lineup scoring many runs. Baez could remedy that in part, but until we can add Bryant it is still going to be weak. Schierholtz did a good job last year, but really struggled with lefties. Hopefully Ruggiano can handle that platoon better than Hairston did. I liked the way Sweeny ws swinging the bat before the injury. Never say never, but this is not a team that is going to score many runs IMO.

    1. GoCubs

      2014 offense will be better than 2013. 2014 Cubs will have a better W-L record than 2013.

      1. woody

        The W – L record may be better because of the bullpen, but the offense we field will not be better than when we had Soriano and DeJesus in the lineup.

        1. Eternal Pessimist

          DeJesus wasn’t really all that effective for the Cubs. OPS of 720′s for an outfielder (platoon player) isn’t all that amazing. I would expect the outfield production won’t be too much worse this year, and won’t be surprised if it is better.

          BTW, Soriano had a decent OPS, but his OBA suffered due to his high strikeouts. Hopefully our young guys make some strides.

        2. GoCubs

          Woody….I expect better OBA than 2013, this will be a very big deal as far as scoring runs. Let’s see. I guess we will know soon enough! :)

  27. James McDonald’s Minor Major League (Non)Guaranteed Deal | World Series Dreaming

    […] many have asked why sign James McDonald to fill that newly opened spot, example A and example B for just a start. The Cubs have a variety of emerging options to fill that spot […]

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