The Chicago White Sox have been stocking up on bullpen arms like it’s going out of style this offseason, but the Chicago Cubs joined the fray on Monday night as they agreed to terms with former St. Louis Cardinals closer Jason Motte.
Motte, who missed all of 2013 thanks to Tommy John surgery, had 42 saves for the Cardinals in the 2012 season, and while he only pitched 29 games in 2014, he showed little of the promise he had displayed in his breakout year. He had a 4.68 ERA in his appearances with the Cardinals, and his WHIP of 1.52 and K/9 of 6.1 were both well off the pace from his year as a closer. He was ultimately left off the Cardinals’ postseason roster as a result of his struggles.
On the plus side of the ledger, Motte’s velocity didn’t seem to be an issue during the season, as he averaged 94 MPH with his fastball.
According to reports, Motte will be paid $4.5 million during the 2015 season, and his signing illustrates that the Cubs aren’t going to take any chances that their bullpen will continue their success from last year. It’s unclear where Motte will fit in at this point, but it wouldn’t be impossible to imagine him in a seventh or eighth inning role to start with under the guidance of Joe Maddon and Chris Bosio.
Last week, we discussed the different obstacles surrounding the Chicago Cubs as they attempted to re-sign pitcher Jeff Samardzija. Whether to a short-term deal or a long-term one, the Cubs don’t seem to be willing to fork over the kind of cash that the pitcher will be demanding in either type of deal, and that concern could end up leading to him being traded.
On Saturday, the Cubs addressed some of those questions by avoiding arbitration with Samardzija, settling at about the halfway point between the two figures that the sides submitted to an arbitrator recently. The $5.345 million is slightly more on Samardzija’s side, but only by about $45,000.
There are a couple of questions that immediately come to mind when discussing the deal. The first, of course, is how tradeable the contract is. A one-year deal, complete with one more year of arbitration eligibility, is likely a deal that the Cubs can move fairly easily, so from that perspective, the contract is a good one.
The second and more important question is whether or not this represents any progress toward a resolution on his contract status. The answer to this query is far murkier and less defined, but if one were to place a bet on this type of thing, the most likely answer is that no, it doesn’t represent any progress. After all, a one-year deal is simply a method to kick the can down the road a bit, so in all likelihood, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer haven’t firmly decided how they will proceed with Samardzija in the future.
With several teams like the Diamondbacks, Braves, and Blue Jays potentially interested in his services, the odds are that the Cubs will end up dealing the starter before the July 31st trade deadline. Judging by the types of pieces (Pedro Strop, CJ Edwards) that Hoyer has gotten for other starting pitchers (Feldman, Garza), the haul for Samardzija could be downright impressive if his track record is any indication.