Motte, a righty, was a Cardinals staple for a number of years – and really quite good (sub-3.00 ERA, sub-3.30 FIP for three straight years from 2010 to 2012) – before succumbing to an elbow injury in early 2013. He underwent Tommy John surgery in May 2013, and only just returned to the mound in mid-2014. He struggled in his return year, as many TJS guys do, posting a 4.68 ERA, 6.49 FIP, and 4.58 xFIP over 25 innings of work (15.5% K rate, 8.2% walk rate).
I’ll wait on the particulars before reacting too much to the deal – whether it’s a big league deal or a minor league deal makes a huge difference – but Motte is certainly an interesting arm to have in the fold if he’s fully recovered from TJS. Pre-surgery, Motte was a high-90s fastball guy. In 2014, it was more mid-90s.
Ideally, you’d get a guy like Motte on a minor league deal (no 40-man spot) with a Major League split salary (i.e., he makes more than the ML minimum if he actually makes the team), to give you a little more flexibility. If it’s a big league deal with a small guarantee, it’s not a huge burden, it’s just a matter of the 40-man getting a little tighter. After the addition of Jon Lester today, by the way, the Cubs’ 40-man stands at 40.
I’ll update when the nature of the deal is available.
UPDATE: Jeff Passan tweets this:
Source: Jason Motte's contract with the Cubs is one year for $4.5M. Good value for potential bounceback. @MLBBruceLevine had the deal first.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 15, 2014
If that’s a straight big league deal for that amount, it’s a surprisingly large guarantee for a guy coming off a TJS recovery (and down year). That could be the split rate I mentioned above (if he makes the team out of Spring Training, that’s his salary), or it could be a straight guarantee, and teams were convinced that Motte was all the way back. And, if he is, it could be a great deal for the Cubs (albeit with obvious risk).
UPDATE 2: A couple salient tweets:
Cubs have seen last few years how a bullpen can derail a season early. Not going to let that happen this year. Overloading with options.
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) December 15, 2014
Rondon (29 saves) stepped up as closer, but #Cubs expect Maddon to be creative with bullpen, using Motte in mix for 9th/high-leverage spots.
— Patrick Mooney (@CSNMooney) December 15, 2014
I include the first one mostly so I didn’t have to type it again; and I include the second one because that sure sounds like a guy who’s coming on a big league deal, and in whose recovery/readiness the Cubs have a lot of faith. That’s a good thing.