If there’s one thing this Cubs front office loves more than winning ball games, it’s signing former top pitching prospects to Minor League deals to serve, simultaneously, as depth for the big league squad and a lotto ticket for the future.
Here’s the latest one:
Danny Hultzen isn't the only lottery ticket for the Cubs this spring. They've added righty Allen Webster (of LAD-BOS trade fame) on a minor-league deal.
— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) March 2, 2018
According to Cotillo, the Cubs have signed right-handed starting pitcher Allen Webster to a Minor League contract, presumably, with an invite to Spring Training (though that bit is just speculation – it’s also possible he could just come to minor league camp).
Webster, 28, was drafted by the Dodgers in the 18th round of the 2008 MLB Draft and was a Top 100 pitching prospect (top 50 to some) up until the 2013 season, when he made his Major League debut for the Red Sox.
Of course, he was originally traded to the Red Sox back in August of 2012, in the massive deal with the Dodgers for Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Nick Punto. Of course, if you know your front office history, you’ll know Epstein and Hoyer were long gone from Boston at that point, but Theo (Red Sox) did acquire Gonzalez from the Jed (Padres) just two years earlier in exchange for Anthony Rizzo, so, you know …. on second thought, maybe I’m not going anywhere special with this, but I did find it interesting.
Webster has pitched in the Major Leagues across three seasons (2012-2015), most recently for the Diamondbacks, but never really established himself in any rotation, and eventually spent some time playing in Korea, before being picked up by the Rangers in 2016. In 12 games (11 starts) with the Rangers’ Triple-A team last year, Webster posted a 6.79 ERA (6.62 FIP), walking 7.7% of batters and striking out just 16.9% in the process. So whatever the Cubs front office sees in him, it’s not his recent results. Perhaps a tweak is in order.
But make no mistake, Webster was a big-time prospect once upon a time. Aside from being a top-50ish guy back in the day, Webster’s changeup was ranked as the best in the Dodgers’ system after 2010 and 2011 (plus again in the International League back in 2014), and his slider was rated the best in the Red Sox system after 2013. Two plus pitches is hard to come by, so maybe there’s something left if his fastball or sinker are at least passable.
And there’s always the chance the Cubs look at those two quality pitches and do something that maybe should’ve done a long time ago: stick him in the bullpen. I can’t say that’s their plan, but it wouldn’t shock me to find out that it was.