Chicago Cubs sign pitcher Williams Perez to minor-league deal
By Jake Misener
The Chicago Cubs continue to add pitching depth ahead of Spring Training, agreeing to terms on a minor-league deal with free agent right-hander Williams Perez.
The deal, which was first reported by Ken Rosenthal, gives Chicago yet another backup option should injuries befall the starting rotation. In recent weeks, the Chicago Cubs added Eddie Butler, Casey Kelly and Brett Anderson – thus avoiding any big-ticket items.
Last season, Perez made 11 starts, pitching to an unsightly 6.04 earned run average. While FIP metrics were a bit kinder (4.79), the fact that he doesn’t miss many bats looms large. He’s allowing roughly one hit per inning, and has shown issues getting past tough spots via the strikeout.
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The 25-year-old Venezuelan appears to be another insurance policy – and little else. In his 11 starts last season, he allowed less than four runs in just three starts. He ended the year on a downhill slide, serving up 17 runs in his final three outings of the year.
He did pitch well at Turner Field, limiting opponents to a .660 OPS across 30 1/3 innings. Right-handed hitters also struggled against him, hitting just .245/.289/.396. Left-handed bats, however, hit just a hair under .300 against Perez in 118 plate appearances.
Joining a mix of backup options
Alongside Kelly and Butler, Perez appears destined for Triple-A Iowa – at least to open the year. Butler has the most upside of the three, but given the Cubs’ relative rotation health the past two years, this seems the smart move.
Last season, John Lackey was essentially the only starter to miss significant time due to injury. The “core” group of Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks combined to throw 589 1/3 regular season innings, with Lackey adding another 188 despite the injury.
In 2017, the Chicago Cubs will appear largely the same as last season – when they won it all. But that all changes next winter, when three-fifths of the starting rotation is likely to either test the open market or retire.
When Chicago opted to cut ties with last year’s number five starter Jason Hammel, a spot opened in the rotation. Initially, that spot looked likely to be filled by Mike Montgomery. However, with the signing of Anderson – there is now internal competition for that spot, with the loser likely serving as a swing man for Joe Maddon.
These moves also provide long-term depth, too. Perez can’t hit free agency until after the 2021 season, as is the case with Butler. Next offseason and how it unfolds will be critical for Theo Epstein and the Chicago Cubs’ front office, with Arrieta and Lackey set to hit free agency.
Looking at a future Cubs’ rotation
That leaves Hendricks and Lester as the two “sure things” in the projected 2018 rotation. Alongside them? A lot of question marks.
Will Anderson‘s back and shoulder hold up? Even if they do, he’s only signed through the 2017 campaign – a healthy year might be his ticket to a long-term deal next winter. There’s always the long-shot hope that someone like Butler turns into a valuable piece, but that’s far from a sure thing.
The organization hopes Montgomery blossoms under pitching coach Chris Bosio. He could give the Cubs another option for the rotation from the left side along with Lester. The team also has some options in the pipeline, but none that appear ready to make an immediate impact at the big-league level.
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The good news? Chicago has roughly $47 million coming off the books at the conclusion of this season. That comes in the form of Lackey, Arrieta and Miguel Montero all hitting the open market.