As I have alluded to over the past couple of weeks, while most of the immediate impact free agents have long been taken off the market with new contracts, there are still a handful of players that remain on the free agent market that could add value to any team. Lets go back to the beginning days of President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer when they joined the Chicago Cubs’ front office earlier this off-season, the pair of executives said the key to the Cubs’ off-season plan this winter was to add talent to the organization. That is what they have done this winter. They have added talented prospects with Anthony Rizzo being the biggest addition to the Cubs’ list of prospects, and talented Major League players with the likes of third baseman Ian Stewart, right fielder David DeJesus, and pitchers Travis Wood, Paul Maholm, and Chris Volstad.
The Cubs’ front office have completed the heavy-lifting of the off-season, but the new regime is not done looking for talent to add talent to both the Major League and Minor League rosters. In addition to their pursuit of Cuban players Yoenis Cespedes, Jorge Soler, and Geraldo Concepcion; the team will also scan over the free agent market for low-cost, high-reward players that have gone most of the winter unsigned.
With that said, sources confirmed on Monday that the Cubs have agreed to sign veteran left-handed reliever Trever Miller to a Minor League contract with in invite to Spring Training. While it was a Minor League contract, Miller will earn $800,000 if he makes the team out of Spring Training. In addition to the $800,000, I’m sure there is an opt-out clause that states if Miller is not with the Major League team by a certain point, he will be let out of his contract.
The Miller signing should not go overlooked by Cubs’ fans. While Miller is 38 years old and not a direct fit with the Cubs’ rebuilding project for the 2012 season, the veteran reliever should add some value to the Cubs’ bullpen. Miller spent the 2011 season with three teams–St Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays, and Boston Red Sox–while posting an ERA of 3.80 in 21.1 innings pitched last season. More enticing to Cubs’ fans, should be the fact that he has held left handed hitters to a .225 career batting average over 13 seasons in the Major Leagues.
As we head into Spring Training, the only pitchers who have an earned spot in the Cubs’ bullpen are closer Carlos Marmol, set-up man Kerry Wood, left handed reliever James Russell, and either Volstad or Wood. That list is subject to change depending on what trades are made or not made before Opening Day. Another pitcher who likely has a strong shot of making the team out of Spring Training is left hander Jeff Beliveau. The 25 year old Beliveau posted an ERA of 1.89 with the Tennessee Smokies in 2011–the Cubs’ Double-A affiliate. Miller may be facing a lot of competition, but given his track record over his career, he may have a decent chance to be one of the final pieces to the Cubs’ bullpen for the 2012 season.