Back at the beginning of December, the Chicago Cubs tendered contracts to four of their eligible players – Jake Arrieta, Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon, and Justin Grimm – and non-tendered four others.
Among those non-tenders were a few familiar names, including relievers Zac Rosscup, Gerardo Concepcion, and Conor Mullee. Here’s the very brief bit we had on them at the the time, roughly summing up the non-tender decisions:
Rosscup, a lefty reliever, missed all of 2016 with a shoulder injury. Concepcion, also a lefty reliever, pitched well in the upper minors this year, but didn’t quite shine in a midseason shot with the big league team, and then struggled thereafter. Mullee, a righty, is best known as the guy the Cubs claimed on waivers while they were winning the World Series.
As we noted then, it was possible after the non-tender (which removed them from the 40-man roster) that they could sign minor league deals with the Cubs and stay in the organization.
Well, I have good news. According to Baseball America, the Cubs have in fact re-signed each of Rosscup, Concepcion, and Mullee to minor league deals, which means they’ll stick in the organization! Woo hoo! Pitching depth is good!
Given the absence of a true, dependable LOOGY in the bullpen – after all, Koji Uehara is better against lefties, but is a righty; Caleb Smith is better against righties, but is a lefty; and Brian Duensing has been worth just 0.2 fWAR from 2013-2016 – having two additional Major League-ish lefties stashed away on minor league deals in Triple-A is nice.
And to be certain, despite middling results, Rosscup sure looked like he could be a useful reliever after his first taste of the Majors in 2015 – of course, we’ll have to see how the shoulder injury that cost him the 2016 season changes things. And Concepcion is probably not quite ready yet for a significant role, but still has some upside and is just 24 years old.
Mullee, on the other hand, is not someone we’ve got to see in action just yet (remember, the Cubs first grabbed him off waivers on the day of Game Seven of the World Series), but is a guy who finally made his Major League debut in 2016 after a stellar season at Triple-A for the Yankees. Over 36.1 innings, in fact, Mullee posted a 0.99 ERA with a 1.96 FIP to support it. He struck out 32.9% of the batters he faced, while walking just 8.0%. At 28, Mullee was a bit old for Triple-A, but it’s always possible that something finally clicked. It’s not uncommon at all for relievers to figure things out later in their career.
It wouldn’t be crazy to see all three pitchers at some point during the Cubs’ 2017 season. As far as minor Minor League deals for relievers go, I think you can actually be quite pleased/excited about these three. There’s a nice mix of youth, upside, depth, and need in these three arms, and the Cubs are probably happy to keep them.