Cubs Round Up More of the Usual Suspects
Submitted by Arizona Phil on Tue, 01/23/2007 - 10:56am
In addition to signing Jeff Samardzija to a major league contract last week and INF Tomas Perez to a minor league contract (with an NRI to ST) the week before, and while waiting for Cliff Floyd to decide what he wants to do, the Cubs have signed several additional FAs to minor league contracts recently: RHP Cory Bailey will turn 36 next week, but that didn't stop him from playing winter ball in Venezuela, where he was one of the top pitchers in the VWL (2.24 ERA and 4/45 BB/K in 68.1 IP). Bailey returned to the U. S. last year after pitching in Japan (Yomiuri Giants), but he had quite a bit of MLB experience (172 games off-and-on as a middle reliever 1993-2002 with BOS, STL, SF, and KC) before that. Jason Hart is a 29-year right-handed hitting "4-A" type power-hitting first-baseman who has played in AAA with Oak, TEX, and MIN for most of the last six or seven seasons. He has good power but strikes out a lot. Earlier in his career he had some outstanding HR years in the A's organization. He might get a chance to platoon with Micah Hoffpauir at Iowa. A career AAA back-up catcher, 34-year Mike Mahoney played for Cubs GM Jim Hendry at Creighton, and has previously spent tme in the Cubs organization, serving as the back-up catcher at Iowa for four seasons (2000-03). He also had brief stints in the big leagues with the Cubs in 2000 and 2002, and with the Cardinals in 2005. As a native of Des Moines, Mahoney's dream job would probably be a coaching gig with the Iowa Cubs. Meanwhile, with considerable AAA experience and strong defensive catching skills, Mahoney is a good candidate to get one of the late NRIs to ST, to help catch some of the 30-some pitchers who will be reporting to Fitch Park next month. After playing college ball at Toledo, OF Tony Miller was drafted by the Rockies in 2001 and spent most of his professional career in the COL organization, not getting above AA until last season (when he hit 143/239/159 at Colorado Springs, before getting traded to TOR and being shipped back to AA). Now 26, Miller is a patient hitter with consistently high BB and K totals and plus-speed, but he has yet to prove that he has the offensive skills required to be a productive hitter at the AAA level. A right-handed batter, he will probably be given an opportunity to win the back-up OF job at Iowa, but will more-than-likely end up as the "4th OF" at AA Tennessee. After starring at Desert Vista HS in Phoenix in the late 90's, Corey Myers was the #1 draft pick (4th overall) of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 1999, but turned into Arizona's version of Luis Montanez. Myers struggled in the low minors as a SS-3B over his first three seasons in the D'backs organization, but he subsequently learned to catch (his older brother Casey is a catcher in the A's organization) and has developed into a decent AAA C-3B-1B utility guy. Like Mahoney, the 26-year old Myers might get a late NRI to ST as an extra catcher. IF-OF Derek Wathan is 30 years old, and was a college teammate of Cubs RHP Rocky Cherry at Oklahoma. He is also the son of ex-KC Royals (1970's) C-1B-OF John "Duke" Wathan, and the younger brother of long-time AAA journeyman catcher Dusty Wathan. Although he is not a catcher, Derek does have his dad's athleticism and versatility, and can play any IF or OF position. He has good speed and is a pretty good hitter, and had some decent years in AAA with FLA in 2002-04 before becoming a six-year MLFA after the 2005 season. If nothing else, Wathan has an excellent chance to claim the back-up SS-2B job at Iowa for 2007, and Wathan's presence will likely expedite Mike Fontenot's departure from the Cubs organization. Neither of the other two players recently signed by the Cubs to minor league contracts (28-year old catcher Kevin Ciarrachi and 23-year old LHP Edgar Omana) have played above "A" ball, although Ciarrachi did spend the past five seasons playing in independent leagues around the Midwest. You know Ciarrachi must REALLY love baseball to spend that much time playing indy baseball for basically peanuts.