He’ll come to Spring Training to compete, at most, for a chance to be the long-man out of the bullpen. It’s far more likely that he’ll head to Iowa and standby for the inevitable seven injuries in the rotation.
Last year, Lopez made 16 starts for the Cubs (and 10 relief appearances), and put up a not-awful 4.42 ERA. As a vet, stashed away in the minors, I’m pretty pleased Lopez is returning. Bruce Levine says Lopez will make $900k if/when he’s on the big league team, and $235k when he’s in the minors – which suggests the Cubs were pretty eager to have him as depth in the minors (and, if you really feel like extrapolating, suggests more rotation moves are on the way (but I wouldn’t go that far (it’s just for you eager extrapolators (hooray embedded parentheticals!)))).
Cubs President Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer have said that a good and prepared team knows who its eighth and ninth starters are, if it comes to that. Last year, the Cubs got burned by knowing only who their sixth starter was when Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner went down in the first week. The Cubs didn’t know who number seven was, and had to scramble to pick up Lopez and to get Doug Davis ready to pitch.
This year, at present, the Cubs go at least 10 deep in the rotation without really digging into the depths of the minors. In whatever order you choose, they are: Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm, Travis Wood, Chris Volstad, Randy Wells, Jeff Samardzija, Andy Sonnanstine, Lopez, and Casey Coleman.