You don’t see too many Major League signings this time of year, but there are always a handful, typically as free agents who have been recovering from injuries find their way onto a new team.
So it is with reliever Joe Nathan, who has signed a big league deal with the Chicago Cubs. He was immediately placed on the 60-day disabled list, so, even though he gets a big league deal (and the money and benefits that come with it), he does not currently take up a 40-man roster spot.
Nathan, 41, is recovering from a second career Tommy John surgery, which he had early last season. He’ll be rehabbing from that surgery for the first half of this season, but, even at his age, the Cubs must have liked his chances of contributing in the second half to give him a big league deal.
We’ll soon have more on Nathan and the prospects for him to contribute this year, but it’s worth noting that, before 2014 when he signed on with the Tigers, he was very, very good, even in his late-30s. If his arm recovers well from the surgery – far from a fair bet, given his age and his previous career surgery – then the Cubs might have a very useful piece for the stretch run. That is to say, although this still qualifies as a “low risk” move, don’t immediately discount it because of Nathan’s age.
It’s also worth pointing out: although the Cubs have an eight-man bullpen and some intriguing players at AAA like Spencer Patton and Carl Edwards, Jr., it’s not at all hard to see the quality depth withering away by midseason. Consider that the Cubs just recently lost both Zac Rosscup and Andury Acevedo. It happens, and it can happen quickly. A team with aspirations as high as the Cubs needs to take extra precautions to guard against attrition.