Restoring the rosters: No. 24 – Chicago Cubs

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This is part of a series of articles examining what every team’s roster would look like if given only the players it originally signed. I’m compiling the rosters, ranking them and presenting them in a countdown from Nos. 30 to 1.
No. 30 – Cincinnati
No. 29 – Kansas City
No. 28 – San Diego
No. 27 – Milwaukee
No. 26 – Baltimore
No. 25 – Chicago (AL)
The teams couldn’t be much more different, but the two Chicago squads come in back-to-back in this set of rankings.
Rotation
Carlos Zambrano
Ricky Nolasco
Kyle Lohse
Randy Wells
Jon Garland
Bullpen
Carlos Marmol
Kerry Wood
Scott Downs
Angel Guzman
Michael Wuertz
Sean Marshall
Renyel Pinto
Guzman gets the one asterisk in the whole set of rankings. Technically, he was signed by the Royals, but he had his contract voided before ever pitching for one of the team’s affiliates.
If I were giving credit for all of the talent developed by a club, the Cubs would have to rank higher on this list. However, I’m more ranking the 25-man rosters and that just doesn’t give the team credit for it’s wealth of pitching depth. Whereas guys like Kyle Snyder, Buddy Carlyle, Brett Tomko, Glendon Rusch, Tim Dillard and Tim Stauffer have made previous rotations in these rankings, the Cubs have seven legitimate starters and additional borderline guys. As a matter of fact, their second 12 would likely best the Reds’ first 12.
Jamie Moyer
Todd Wellemeyer
Dontrelle Willis
Rich Hill
Sean Gallagher
Juan Cruz
Kyle Farnsworth
Jerry Blevins
Will Ohman
Justin Speier
Jeff Samardzija
Sergio Mitre
From a quantity standpoint, only the Dodgers really compare. The quality of the group can be argued about, but Zambrano and Nolasco is a very good one-two punch and that bullpen, with five legitimate eighth- and ninth-inning guys, rates as perhaps the best any team has produced.
So why do the Cubs come in 24th?
Lineup
CF Kosuke Fukudome
SS Ryan Theriot
C Geovany Soto
1B Eric Hinske
LF Jake Fox
RF Micah Hoffpauir
3B Casey McGehee
2B Brendan Harris
Bench
OF Felix Pie
SS Ronny Cedeno
OF Sam Fuld
2B/OF Eric Patterson
C Jose Molina
You have to feel a lot better about the long-term prospects of Fox, Hoffpauir and McGehee than I do to consider that to be a legitimate lineup. Actually, the defense is bad enough that I’d prefer to live with Pie in center and push Fukudome to right and Hoffpauir to the bench. Hinske in left field and Fox at first base might also be a preferable arrangement. The pitchers are going to be frustrated regardless.
Oddly enough, of the 13 position players listed above, Pie was the only one particularly highly regarded as a prospect. Fukudome was bought and Theriot and Soto were never expected to turn into the players they are now.
At least it’s a better group than the Cubs would have boasted a couple of years ago. Corey Patterson can’t even make the squad, though he was considered as an alternative to Fuld.
Summary
An inability to develop hitters has forced the Cubs to pay for offense and in many cases they’ve overpaid. It’s a real shame that the wealth of pitching talent and big payrolls have combined to produce just one NLCS appearance and no World Series appearances during the decade. Unless that changes this year, the new ownership should seriously consider replacing GM Jim Hendry.

Angels ink Javy Guerra to minor league deal

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Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with right-handed reliever Javy Guerra. The deal includes an invitation to major league spring training.

Guerra was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball last July after testing positive for a drug of abuse. That suspension is now over, though Guerra is probably ticketed for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate to begin the 2016 season.

The 30-year-old made just three major league appearances in 2015 for the White Sox before getting outrighted off Chicago’s 40-man roster. He does own a 2.87 ERA in 150 1/3 career innings, but it has come with bouts of inconsistency and unreliability.

Maybe he can get everything going in the right direction with Anaheim.

Braves sign reliever Carlos Torres

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As first reported by Bill Shanks of Fox Sports 1670, the Braves have signed right-handed reliever Carlos Torres to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Torres was waived by the Mets in January, somewhat surprisingly, and elected to become a free agent. The 33-year-old ultimately chose Atlanta, where he should have a good shot at an Opening Day roster out of spring training with the rapidly-rebuilding Braves.

Torres posted an ugly 4.68 ERA in 57 2/3 innings last season for the Mets, but he registered a gorgeous 3.06 ERA and 96 strikeouts across 97 innings in 2014.

If he gets off to a good start in 2016, he could become valuable trade bait.

Blue Jays will have a closer competition this spring

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Roberto Osuna became the youngest pitcher to ever play for the Blue Jays last season at age 20 and he rose to the challenge with a 2.58 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 75/16 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 frames. Osuna eventually took over as Toronto’s closer, earning 20 regular-season saves and one in the American League Division Series — a five-out effort in Game 5 to close out the visiting Rangers.

But the Jays upgraded the back end of their bullpen this winter, acquiring Drew Storen from the Nationals in early January for speedy outfielder Ben Revere. Jesse Chavez was also brought to Toronto in a trade with the A’s.

Storen has more experience at closer than Osuna, and Storen struggled when the Nationals tried to put him in a setup role. Storen, in his final year of salary arbitration, also gets paid much more. He’s probably going to enter spring training as the favorite for the Jays’ ninth-inning gig, but there will be a competition …

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca on Wednesday that he doesn’t expect the team to choose between Osuna or Storen until midway through spring training, if not later.

There’s been talk of making Osuna a starter, so add that wrinkle.

Storen, 28, boasts 95 career major league saves.

Orioles plotting late-offseason push? Gallardo, Fowler, Alvarez, Bruce in consideration

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Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.

We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.

Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.