Hancock to Japan
Recently non-tendered reliever Justin Hancock has signed a one-year deal with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. His contract is for $620K, a figure well above the approximate $200K he would have made with the Cubs on a split contract, so financially at least the Cubs decision paid off for Hancock.
His situation is not dissimilar to that of former Cubs hurler Eddie Butler, who also signed in Japan this week. He has MLB arm talent, but consistency and command have been an issue holding him back, and it is a difficult task to improve that facet of your game while being yo-yo’d between AAA and the Majors. Assuming the player is able to adapt to a foreign country and baseball culture, a season or two of stability can sometimes prove beneficial in turning the corner.
Freeman to Cleveland, B. Wilson to Detroit
Another pair of Cubs free agents have signed elsewhere.
Many fans will rejoice to see Mike Freeman depart, but he did put in good work with Iowa during his stint with the organization. For a while it appeared that the Cubs had acquired an upgrade for the “veteran-utilityman-to-stash-in-Iowa” role but at least for the time being Ronald Torreyes is a free agent after the Cubs non-tendered him last Friday. There is still a chance Torreyes returns, or one of the other vets that was non-tendered around the league, could be brought in to replace Freeman.
Catcher Bobby Wilson spent most of 2018 with Minnesota before being acquired by the Cubs on August 30th for Chris Gimenez. He was on the DL at the time, and was meant to serve as an experienced fallback option for the playoffs in the event the Cubs suffered an injury to Contreras or Caratini. Since those guys stayed healthy, and Wilson took a little longer than expected to recover, he never did play a game in a Cubs uniform.
While the team waited on Wilson to return, Taylor Davis was added to the Cubs 40-man roster for the second straight September, and this time around they chose to tender him a contract for the next season. Davis cannot be outrighted off the roster until after spring training begins, so unless he is included in a trade the decision by the team shows they now feel comfortable with him serving as the third catcher going into the 2019 season.
I would not look for the team to bring in another Chris Gimenez or Tim Federowicz-type unless they lose one or more of their catching prospects (Jhonny Pereda/Ian Rice/P.J. Higgins) in the Rule 5 draft this month. In that event, a little additional depth may be required, although the club also has veteran Ali Solis (currently on-loan), rock-solid receiver Erick Castillo, and Will Remillard on Minor League deals. Each has some AAA experience.
Cubs lose another coach
The Los Angeles Angels have hired Cubs AA Tennessee Hitting Coach Jesus Feliciano to be their new 1st base coach. Feliciano served as the Manager of the Eugene Emeralds from 2016-17. He guided the team to the Northwest League Championship Series both seasons. The 2016 club won a league record 54 games on its way to the franchise’s first outright Championship in its 40-year history. In addition to coaching in the 1st base box during games, Feliciano will also serve as the Outfield Coach for new Angels Manager Brad Ausmus.