Well, how about that game last night - that was something, huh?. It wasn't nearly as fun to watch as Game Seven of the 2016 World Series was; but, then again, I might be just " a touch" biased.
No matter how you feel about Tom Brady, the Patriots, Roger Goodell or the NFL in general, how that "the big game" over with, one thing that we can all welcome is the end of football season. Why? The end of the NFL schedule means that baseball season is very nearly upon us and that is a wonderful thing. This is especially so for we Chicago sports fans, seeing as Bears football has been a test in masochism.
So, with the impending arrival of Spring Training, this seems like as good of a time as any to cover the minor transactions that the Cubs have made in the past couple of weeks. These moves may have been lost in the shuffle of the NFL playoffs:
Eddie Butler may be a tourist here, but he's going to be sticking around Chicago for the foreseeable future . The former first round pick was acquired from Colorado, in exchange for relief prospect James Farris.
Drafted in the first round in 2012, Butler has the stuff to be a top-of-the-rotation arm; however, his lack of control has kept him from capitalizing on that potential, in the majors (career 1.34 SO/W ratio). Perhaps a little "Bosmosis" will do Mr. Butler some good, a la Jake Arrieta. Most importantly, Eddie has options left, meaning that he can and will likely be optioned to Iowa, where he can work on and tweak some things until a need should arise. Butler will probably be sharing that Iowa rotation with....
Williams Perez, another highly-touted prospect who hasn't been able to figure things out at the Big League level. The former Braves hurler was signed to a minor league deal, with an invitation to Spring Training. While his numbers in the Majors are scary (6.04 ERA, last season), injuries may have had something to do with that. Again, his main role for the Cubs will be to hang around in AAA, in case something should happen to the top five starters.
The want to acquire controllable starting depth (players with options or on minor league deals) has been anything but subtle this off-season and these two roster moves certainly fit that mold. Also, if anything should happen and Perez makes a start or two for Chicago, I'll need to track down a card of his for my CATRC, as the COMC watermark on the image above would indicate.
Speaking of rotation depth, part of this need was created by the departure of none other than...
...Jason Hammel, who was granted free agency in November after management declined to exercise their team option on his contract. This was done as a favor to Jason, to allow him to pursue a multi-year deal in a weak starter's market. Unfortunately, despite being one of the most appealing arms on the market, questions about Hammel's health have kept him on the board... that is, until last night.
While Tom Brady was orchestrating one of the greatest comebacks in sports history, Hammel signed his name on the dotted line of a two-year, $16 million deal with the Kansas City Royals. It's not quite the rich deal that Jason was probably looking for, but one could do a lot worse, right? Besides, as a member of the 2016 World Series Champion Cubs, he'll never have to pay for a thing in the city of Chicago ever again.
Furthermore, also officially departing Chicago was nondescript reliever Joe Smith, who signed a one-year deal with the Toronto Blue Jays a day earlier. The trade deadline acquisition battled hamstring problems, which hampered his effectiveness, limited him to just 16 appearances and kept him off of the postseason roster.
It would have been nice to re-sign the side-armer to a minor league deal with a spring invite, as his numbers after coming off of the DL were top-notch (0 ER and 7 K's in 5 2/3 innings). However, his reputation as a quality set-up man in years previous was enough to earn him a Major League deal. Oh well.
In summation, now we're all caught up on the roster moves that were made leading up to Cubs camp - nothing major or earth-shattering, just depth pieces and proverbial insurances policies. Anyway, good luck to Jason Hammel and Joe Smith and Jason Hammel in their new surroundings and here's hoping Eddie Butler and Williams Perez can turn a corner with a change in scenery.
With football now in our rear view mirrors and baseball rapidly approaching on the horizon, all feels right in the world. After the off-season's moves, I'm truly excited about the Cubs chances of defending their World Series title... defending their World Series Title... man, I never thought I'd get a chance to type that sentence.
As Steve Goodman might sing today, "baseball seasons nearly underway and you better get ready for a brand new era."