Well, it’s not exactly the present any of us wanted this Christmas, but the Cubs have apparently made one more move before a short break for the holidays.
Mike Zagurski, hello:
The #Cubs have signed veteran lefty Mike Zagurski to a minor-league deal. It includes an invite to big-league camp.
— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) December 23, 2018
Zagurski, 35, spent the early part of his career with the Phillies, who drafted him all the way back in 2006, but has moved through the systems of the Diamondbacks, Athletics, Yankees, Pirates, Indians, Blue Jays, Tigers, and, most recently, Milwaukee Brewers.
Indeed, last season Zagurski tossed 45.0 innings for the Triple-A Brewers and only 1 inning for the big league team. But don’t let that time split discourage you. He was fairly high-quality depth at Triple-A, even for his age (3.20 ERA, 3.39 FIP; 34.6% strikeout rate, 8.9% walk rate), and it’s not like it was easy to break into the Brewers bullpen. That was a talented bunch.
As a pitcher, Zagurski is an entirely fastball/slider type, but I’m not entirely sure how hard he can throw it anymore. That’s not to say he doesn’t have velocity – he average 94.1 MPH in the big leagues last season – but that was only 1.0 inning and his last big league data came all the way back in 2013. We’ll probably just have to wait and see what he looks like this Spring.
As for the deal, itself, Zagurski got a Minor League contract with an invite to big league camp, which means while he has a shot to break camp with the team, he can (and probably will) start the season out at Triple-A Iowa, where he’ll serve as extreme depth for the pen. I can’t help but notice he’s a (potentially) hard-throwing left-hander, though, which is exactly what the Cubs were reportedly looking for this offseason. If he shows anything close to what he produced at Triple-A last year this Spring, he might just have a chance to carve out a niche role in this disheveled bullpen.
But don’t take this for more than what it is: a minor league, depth signing. Zagurski is not the answer to the Cubs bullpen questions. He’s but one small piece of a larger puzzle. As a zero-risk signing, you can do worse than a big left-hander who just pitched in the system of a rival.