With the Cubs roster at just 23 men earlier today, I was preparing to post about potential changes we could be seeing in time for tonight’s contest against the Rangers. But within the last three hours of finalizing this post, the North Siders have made a flurry of moves.
For starters we will review a couple transactions conducted over the weekend. As the corresponding move to Kyuji Fujikawa being placed on the disabled list, the Cubs had called up reliever Rafael Dolis on Saturday. After making a brief 1/3 of an inning appearance to end the game Sunday afternoon, Dolis was optioned back down to Iowa on the off day yesterday. No corresponding move for the bullpen has been made until this afternoon. With the waiver wire pick up of Kameron Loe on Sunday and the minor league free agent signing of Kevin Gregg, at least one of the two figured to be the answer for the one void in the relief corps. With Loe having to be placed on the 40 man roster, my educated guess would have been for the former Mariner replacing Dolis. To a bit of my surprise, the Cubs also purchased the contract of Gregg, effectively adding him to the 40 man as well and in turn bumping lefty Hisanori Takahashi via DFA (designated for assignment).
The right handed Loe was picked up after being discarded by Seattle. The veteran pitcher had made four appearances so far this season and did not impress his now former team in 6 2/3 innings of work over four appearances, racking up a 10.80 ERA with a 1.80 WHIP. The Cubs deciding to pick Loe off of the waiver wire may be damning of the current state of the Cubs bullpen. The organization may be looking for lightening in a bottle here. However, the real surprise was the immediate addition of Gregg as I mentioned earlier. That reaction to the transaction is not necessarily a reflection of Gregg’s numbers over the past few seasons, but the fact that as a minor league signing, there was no roster limitation that was forcing the hand of Theo Epstein.
Gregg had an excellent Spring Training with the Dodgers compared to the bad numbers he posted in 2011 and 2012 during the pre season, but the veteran righty had not made the cut with the stacked Los Angeles squad and apparently teams were not necessarily knocking down his door to snatch him up. While Takahashi was not lights out during his three appearances with the Cubs, my inclination would have been to keep a second left handed arm in the pen over a veteran right handed journeyman reliever. Maybe my almost nonexistent expectations out of Gregg stem from being biased over his unsuccessful stint with the Cubs last time in 2009. The signing may even be the penalty for my mere mentioning of his name in my Carlos Marmol post over a week ago. If the Gregg experiment crashes and burns, I hope to not get the Steve Bartman treatment.
February 23, 2012; Mesa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum (center), president Theo Epstein (left), and general manager Jed Hoyer (right) watch the inaugural match play bunting tournament during spring training at Fitch Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
The move to allow space for Loe on the 40 man was the placement of third string catcher Steve Clevenger on the 60 day DL. Those of you who watched the game on Saturday will recall that the left handed stick ended the afternoon with a strikeout before crumpling to the ground with what was later diagnosed as a strained oblique, a repeat injury for Clevenger. The catcher slash infielder was expected to be out at least six weeks, so combined with a rehab stint to get back into shape, being placed on the 60 day DL was a move that made sense.
The good news that stands out over all of uninspiring news above is that Gold Glove second baseman Darwin Barney makes his return off of the DL today and will be in the line up against the Rangers. I had talked about the survivor battle going on between Alberto Gonzalez and Brent Lillibridge last week leading up to Barney’s expected return. After Gonzalez’s solid performance against the champion Giants over the weekend, combined with Lillibridge’s continued ineffectiveness, Gonzalez has been named the winner despite Lillibridge’s defensive flexibility. I am sure Cubs fans and Cubbies Crib readers have no issues with Lillibridge being the one kicked off of the island after witnessing an .042 batting average, .042 OBP, nine strikeout stat line over 24 at bats.
Lillibridge being designated for assignment was not, however, forced by the return of Barney. The most recent transaction of the afternoon was brought to the media by GM Jed Hoyer and he has announced that the Cubs have claimed Cody Ransom off of waivers. Ransom solves the depth issue at third base that Lillibridge provided over Gonzalez, but if you can believe it, the Cubs have found an infielder that is hitting worse than Lillibridge this season. Ransom was cut by the Padres after going 0 for 11 with five strikeouts in his limited action to start the season. However Ransom does provide some pop that he displayed as recently as last season between the Diamondbacks and Brewers, collecting 11 home runs with a .220 BA and .312 OBP over 90 games.
Even if Ransom does not pan out, he may simply just be keeping the hot corner seat warm for Ian Stewart. The Cubs Twitter friendly third baseman announced that he is about a week to 10 days away from returning and the Cubs confirmed this by sending the former Rockie on a rehab assignment to Iowa on Sunday. Stewart will begin catching up on the at bats he missed in Spring Training there with an eye towards meeting his return time frame goal.
None of the above suddenly makes the Cubs playoff contenders, obviously, but the shuffling of the deck does provide the Cubs an opportunity to try to keep the team afloat and fill their existing holes due to injury.