Per the team’s transactions page, the Chicago Cubs have signed pitcher Mario Meza, a 25-year-old righty from Mexico, to a minor league contract.
Meza has pitched since 2012 in the Mexican League, a competitive professional league (classified as a AAA level by Minor League Baseball, though the caliber of play overall might be considered a level or two lower). His results have been mixed overall, but consider that he was very young in his earliest years in the league as a starter, then struggled in 2014, did not pitch in 2015, and came back as a reliever in 2016. I can’t find confirmation online, but it’s a fair guess that he had an injury issue in late 2014 – perhaps surgery – that then kept him out in 2015, and he came back in 2016 as a reliever.
And boy did he come back. Upon returning in the bullpen, batters couldn’t really do much against Meza, who struck out 51 in his 51.0 innings, allowing just 37 hits in the process. The 20 walks are a bit on the high side, but the 1.59 ERA is obviously quite strong.
On a minor league deal, it’s possible Meza will join the Cubs for Spring Training, and we’ll all then get a better sense of whether he’s a bullpen contender, or a depth/project type who will spend some time in the minors. Best bet on anyone without Stateside pro experience is that they’ll need some time in the minors, though. Without knowing too much about him yet from a scouting perspective, I wouldn’t want to state anything too certainly about what’s to come.
In any case, it’s an interesting arm added to the fold for the Cubs, and there should be many more throughout the offseason.