The Cubs added a key piece to the rotation on Tuesday, formally announcing the signing of free agent John Lackey to a two-year, $32 million contract.
“It’s really exciting to get John,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of the addition, announced at the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn.
Maddon and Lackey were first together in Anaheim, and the right-hander helped the Angels win the 2002 World Series, winning Game 7 against the Giants. Maddon quipped that the pitcher’s performance in the postseason “actually helped pay for my daughter’s wedding — I was very grateful for many years for that.”
Lackey, 37, will be slotted in behind his former Red Sox teammate Jon Lester and National League Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta. Not a bad combination.
“He’s one of the best competitors I’ve ever been around,” Maddon said. “He demands a lot on a daily basis when he plays of himself and his team, and I love it. I really believe the particular kind of edge that John provides is really going to be helpful for us moving forward. I like the idea of coming off the year we had to add this kind of personnel to the group I think it will benefit us even more. Our veterans within the group are spectacular and now you get to add John Lackey.”
Lackey was 13-10 with a career-best 2.77 ERA in 33 starts with the Cardinals last year, and finished ninth in the Cy Young voting.
“I think he’s good for us,” Maddon said. “He’s almost a perfect fit for us after the season we just had.”
— Carrie Muskat
Jeimer Candelario and Willson Contreras were named to the Arizona Fall League 2015 All Prospects team. The players were selected by the AFL managers and coaches. Voters were asked to consider their AFL performance and Major League-projectability.
Candelario finished second in the AFL in home runs, extra base hits, and total bases, and was third in hits, doubles and lowest strikeout ratio per plate appearance. He played in the Fall Stars Game and delivered an RBI double. He is ranked 20th on MLB.com’s list of top Cubs prospects. In 21 games, he batted .329 with five home runs, eight doubles and 15 RBIs.
Contreras is 10th on the Cubs’ list of top prospects. The catcher batted .283 in 14 games, hitting three home runs, four doubles and driving in eight runs. His season ended early because of a hamstring injury.
— Carrie Muskat
Trevor Cahill, who became a key piece in Chicago’s bullpen at the end of last season, has re-signed with the Cubs and will be given the chance to start. The one-year deal was reportedly worth $4.25 million, and is pending a physical.
The Cubs’ primary goal this offseason was to add more depth with the pitching staff, and they have already agreed to terms with free agent John Lackey, whose deal will be finalized once he completes a physical which was expected to be done this week.
Cahill, 27, was a starter with the Athletics, Diamondbacks and Braves, but was released by Atlanta last June, and again by the Dodgers last August.
He signed a Minor League deal with the Cubs on Aug. 19, and after a stint at Triple-A Iowa, he made 11 relief appearances for the Cubs, giving up four runs on eight hits over 17 innings.
— Carrie Muskat
The Cubs filled a hole in the rotation Friday, agreeing to a two-year, $32 million contract with free agent John Lackey. The deal will be finalized pending a physical. FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal first reported the deal. The club would not confirm.
Lackey, 37, was 13-10 with a 2.77 ERA in 33 starts with the Cardinals in 2015. He is close friends with Cubs starter Jon Lester and knows Chicago president Theo Epstein from their days together in Boston.
The contract with the Cubs comes six years after Epstein signed Lackey to a five-year, $82.5 million deal in December 2009 with the Red Sox. That deal included a 2015 club option at the Major League minimum salary if Lackey missed significant time with surgery for a pre-existing elbow injury in 2010-14. Lackey did undergo Tommy John surgery after the 2011 season, and missed all of 2012.
The Cardinals will receive a Draft pick as compensation for the Cubs signing Lackey, who received a qualifying offer from St. Louis. Chicago had the 28th pick in the first round.
— Carrie Muskat
What do the Cubs do with their overload of middle infielders? Javier Baez will get some playing time in center field this winter for Santurce in the Puerto Rican winter league.
Baez played his first game for Santurce on Tuesday, his 23rd birthday, and started at second base. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Friday that Minor League outfield instructor Doug Dascenzo will join Baez in Puerto Rico and practice before actually starting a game in center.
“It will add to his versatility and it makes sense to do it at a moment in time when we have a bit of a hole in center field — it makes sense to see how Javy looks out there,” Epstein said. “He’s someone who’s always enjoyed taking fly balls during batting practice in center field, shagging out there, and has always looked good doing so.”
The Cubs are in the market for a center fielder with Dexter Fowler leaving via free agency. Chicago did make a qualifying offer to Fowler, which he rejected. Epstein said there is still dialogue with Fowler’s agent Casey Close.
“We’d be quite open to his return but obviously we’d have to do it in a way that fits our outlook in 2016 and beyond,” Epstein said.
Without an obvious fill-in, the Cubs will look at Baez, who spent most of 2015 at Triple-A Iowa, where he batted .324 in 70 games. In 28 games with the Cubs last season, he batted .289 with one home run, six doubles and four RBIs.
“Maybe [moving Baez to center] it creates another option for [manager Joe Maddon] late in games or as an injury fill in — who knows what it will lead to?” Epstein said. “It’ll be fun to take a look at him out there.”
— Carrie Muskat
The Cubs will open Spring Training on March 3 against the Brewers in Maryvale, Ariz., and wrap up with a rematch in Las Vegas against the Mets, who swept them in the National League Championship Series.
The Cubs finish the exhibition schedule March 31-April 1 at Cashman Field in Las Vegas, where the Mets’ Triple-A team plays, before heading to Anaheim for the 2016 season opener against the Angels on April 4. The Cubs also will play one final tune-up against the Angels on April 3 at Angel Stadium.
Chicago’s first home game at Sloan Park in Mesa, Ariz., will be March 4 against the Angels. The 31-game schedule includes 14 home games.
The Cubs and White Sox play twice, meeting March 12 in Mesa and again March 18 in Glendale, Ariz.
Individual game tickets for the 2016 Cubs home Spring Training games go on sale Jan. 9 at 11 a.m. CT at the Sloan Park ticket office, on http://www.cubs.com or by calling 1-800-THE-CUBS.
The Cubs added another left-handed reliever, claiming Edgar Olmos off waivers from the Mariners on Friday. With the move, the 40-man roster is now at 37.
Olmos, 25, was 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA in six appearances with the Mariners last season, including two starts. He spent the majority of the season with Triple-A Tacoma, where he was 1-1 with a 3.55 ERA in 20 games, including two starts.
The Cubs’ goal this offseason was to improve the pitching depth, and Olmos is the latest add. On Wednesday, the Cubs signed lefties Rex Brothers and Clayton Richard to one-year contracts, and tendered a contract to southpaw Travis Wood, who is arbitration eligible.
As expected, the Cubs tendered offers to Jake Arrieta, Travis Wood, Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon, Justin Grimm, and Chris Coghlan on Wednesday, and also agreed to terms with left-handed relievers Rex Brothers and Clayton Richard on 2016 contracts.
The Cubs did not tender contracts to right-hander Ryan Cook and lefty Jack Leathersich. With the moves, the 40-man roster is now at 36 players.
All but Leathersich were arbitration eligible. Teams had until 10:59 p.m. CT Wednesday to tender 2016 contracts, and if they did not, the players would become free agents.
In addition to Brothers and Richard, a total of 26 players from the Cubs’ 40-man roster were tendered 2016 contracts. That includes 20 who were not yet eligible for arbitration.
Arrieta, the National League Cy Young winner who led the Major Leagues with 22 wins, is in line for a significant raise. The right-hander made $3.63 million last season, and MLBTradeRumors.com projects he could receive $10.6 million in arbitration.
The Cubs have had some talks with Arrieta’s agent regarding a possible long-term deal. The right-hander will be a free agent after the 2017 season.
Wood, who began the year in the rotation and made a successful switch to the bullpen, made $5.685 million last season. Strop was paid $2.525 million last season, Rondon $544,000, Grimm $531,500, and Coghlan $2.505 million. This is the first year Rondon and Grimm are arbitration eligible.
Rondon set a personal high with 34 saves, and compiled his best ERA (1.67), appearing in a career-high 72 games. MLBTradeRumors.com projected the right-hander would receive $3.6 million in 2016. Strop also set career highs in games (76) and innings pitches (68), while Grimm posted a 1.99 ERA in 62 games.
Richard signed a one-year, $2 million deal, while Brothers agreed to a one-year, $1.42 million contract. The Cubs acquired Brothers on Nov. 25 for Minor League lefty Wander Cabrera. Brothers, who turns 28 on Dec. 18, split the 2015 season between the Rockies and Triple-A Albuquerque, and posted a 1.74 ERA in 17 big league relief appearances.
— Carrie Muskat
The Cubs agreed to terms on Wednesday with lefty reliever Rex Brothers on a one-year, $1.42 million contract and avoided arbitration.
The Cubs have eight other players who are arbitration eligible, including pitchers Jake Arrieta, Travis Wood, Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon, Justin Grimm, Ryan Cook, Clayton Richard and outfielder Chris Coghlan. All were expected to be tendered by Wednesday’s deadline.
Brothers was designated for assignment by the Rockies on Nov. 20, then traded to the Cubs five days later for Minor League left-hander Wander Cabrera. Brothers, who turns 28 on Dec. 18, split the 2015 season between the Rockies and Triple-A Albuquerque, going 1-0 with a 1.74 ERA in 17 big league relief appearances. He was the Rockies closer in 2013, totaling 19 saves and a 1.74 ERA in 72 appearances.
Here are projected 2016 salaries, as determined by MLBTradeRumors.com:
Clayton Richard $1.1 million
Chris Coghlan $3.9 million
Travis Wood $6.4 million
Pedro Strop $4.7 million
Jake Arrieta $10.6 million
Ryan Cook $1.4 million
Hector Rondon $3.6 million
Justin Grimm $1 million
The Cubs will host a tree lighting ceremony on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. CT on the northwest corner of Clark and Addison streets outside Wrigley Field. The tree will be positioned in front of The Cubs Store because of ongoing construction at Wrigley Field.
Guests are encouraged to bring a new, unwrapped toy to place under the tree. The gifts will benefit families of Children’s Home and Aid Society. If you can’t attend the tree lighting, donations will be accepted at the Cubs Store leading up to Thursday’s event.
Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins will help light the 28-foot tree, donated by Christy Webber Landscapes.