The Chicago Cubs’ incredible stockpiling of potential relief arms on minor league deals continues apace. To date, the Cubs have signed pitchers Drew Rucinski, Luis Parra, Jack Leathersich, Stephen Fife, Jean Machi, and Brandon Gomes to minor league deals, each of whom is genuinely interesting and has the potential to contribute (which is not always the case with minor league signings).
The Cubs have also added bullpen arms at the big league level – Andury Acevedo, Rex Brothers and Spencer Patton among those you may have forgotten – and it’s just a tremendous amount of depth, particularly when you consider that, presently, seven big league bullpen spots already are presumptively held by Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, Justin Grimm, Travis Wood, Trevor Cahill, Adam Warren, and Clayton Richard. Throw in Zac Rosscup, Neil Ramirez, and Carl Edwards, Jr., and there are a ton of options even before you get to the depth.
In other words, it’s going to be tough for the guys signed to minor league deals to crack the big league roster. But we know that injuries happen. Ineffectiveness pops up. Guys surprise. A competitive team like the Cubs can’t afford to be done in by a lack of bullpen depth, so they’re sparing no marginal expense.
Cruz, 25, was an up-and-coming prospect with the Astros who stalled out at AAA, and was removed from the 40-man roster this offseason. Prior to reaching the AAA level in 2014, there was a whole lot to like in his numbers, including a consistently high strikeout rate and a manageable walk rate. The hurdle at AAA, at least as a starter, seems to have proven too great. Unless the Cubs are going to try and reclaim him as a starter, I wonder if you’ll see them moving him full-time to the pen. He’s been more successful there in limited stints the last few years, and he’s always been much harder on lefties than righties.
Barnes, 28, came up with the Giants then the Indians, reaching the big leagues for a taste in 2012. He, too, had decent success at the lower levels of the minors, but was converted to a reliever in 2012 at AAA. He spent 2015 with the Blue Jays at AA and AAA, with so-so numbers. He looks like quality AAA bullpen depth to me, which, again, any good organization needs. You just never know.