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Taking a small risk, Cubs closing in on Chang-Yong Lim

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Taking a small risk, Cubs closing in on Chang-Yong Lim

The Cubs continue to make investments in the international market and take chances on pitchers recovering from injuries.

Chang-Yong Lim spoke with reporters on Thursday at Incheon International Airport outside Seoul, South Korea, indicating he had a deal that could be worth 5 million over two years.

The Cubs have not commented on the reports, though sources said the money has been overstated, cautioning that if they close the deal, it would be a two-year minor-league contract that contains only a small amount guaranteed. It would not come with a spot on the 40-man roster.

MORE: The story behind the Cubs drafting 49ers QB Kaepernick

For the Cubs, this is a play for 2014 as Lim recovers from elbow surgery. But that appears to be part of their broader strategy, collecting players who may be undervalued because of health concerns.

Im happy that my dream has finally come true, Lim said, according to Reuters. Im not young anymore and I wanted to do something that Ive never experienced before.

Lim who will turn 37 in June pitched seven scoreless innings for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows last season before shutting it down. He had notched 128 saves across the previous four seasons combined.

Going off Lims career numbers in Japan a 2.09 ERA with 231 strikeouts against 68 walks in 233 innings he profiles as the type of pitcher this front office values, someone who can control the zone and follow the game plan.

Lim a 5-foot-11, 175-pound right-hander pitched for Korea in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. He earned a bronze medal with South Korea at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

This comes one week after introducing Japanese closer Kyuji Fujikawa with a press conferencephoto shoot at Wrigley Field.

MORE: Cubs waiting to put Fujikawa in the spotlight

Between Lim and Fujikawa, the Cubs could have some interesting options at the back end of their bullpen by 2014. Theyre also reportedly among the teams pursuing veteran reliever Mike Adams, though their interest level is unclear. They were prepared to lose out on Jason Grilli, another bullpen arm who this week agreed to return to the Pittsburgh Pirates on a two-year, 6.75 million deal.

For now, Carlos Marmol is penciled in as the Opening Day closer, as Fujikawa gets acclimated to his new surroundings. On this level, Lim will fit in, if only because hell be on rehab assignments.

Last week, the Cubs took Hector Rondon with the second pick in the Rule 5 draft, hoping he could recapture the form that made him a good pitching prospect with the Cleveland Indians before elbow injuries wiped out most of his past three seasons.

Last month, the Cubs gave Scott Baker 5.5 million, plus incentives, on a one-year deal, even though he didnt throw a pitch for the Minnesota Twins last season, believing he will come back strong from Tommy John surgery.

MORE: Cubs' offseason moves just beginning

Last summer, the Cubs made Arodys Vizcaino the centerpiece of a trade deadline deal with the Atlanta Braves, flipping Paul Maholm for a prospect recovering from the Tommy John procedure, with the expectation he could join the big-league rotation at some point in 2013.

This is a creative way to address the problem team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer have been staring at since taking over at Clark and Addison more than a year ago: Not enough pitching.

David Ross indicates no Cubs players have tested positive for COVID-19

David Ross indicates no Cubs players have tested positive for COVID-19

The Cubs appear to be in better position than some teams as they start Summer Camp.

When asked Friday if he feels any anxiety being back at Wrigley Field, Cubs manager David Ross indicated the club has had no players test positive for COVID-19 during intake testing this week. 

Ross told reporters in Friday's Zoom session he didn't see any additional anxiety in the players initially either when it comes to the strangeness of the new protocols.

“And I think it's comforting to know that everybody's clear and, you know, has tested negative.”

Most Cubs players took their tests on Wednesday, but the club is following MLB guidelines and has not confirmed or denied any results. Because it’s not considered a work-related injury, teams cannot announce if a player tests positive for the coronavirus without consent.

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Later in the press conference, Ross was asked if he expects any players not to be at camp Friday, outside of the injured José Quintana.

“We’re not supposed to comment I guess — I think you guys have heard all that — on testing positive or negative or any of that stuff, and so I don't wanna lead into that,” he said. “But I definitely expect everybody to be here. I haven't heard anybody's not going to be here.”

Ross was then asked to clarify if every player is cleared.

“Report times are spread out, so not everybody is actually here,” he said. “But I haven’t heard of anybody from [Cubs head athletic trainer PJ Mainville] that is not gonna be showing up today.”

MLB intends to release broad league-wide testing results as early as Friday — the number of tests conducted and how many came back positive. We've already seen several COVID-related announcements from other teams this week.

Wednesday, the Phillies quietly placed four players on the 10-day injured list. Friday, Indians general manager Chris Antonetti announced outfielder Delino DeShields has tested positive for the coronavirus and is experiencing minor symptoms.

Former Cubs and current Angels manager Joe Maddon said Friday 9-10 players would not be participating in workouts and did not disclose why, suggesting that at least several of them have tested positive.

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What Jose Quintana's injury says about precarious nature of this MLB season

What Jose Quintana's injury says about precarious nature of this MLB season

One more injury or a positive COVID-19 test within the starting rotation, and the Cubs will be in trouble.

Jose Quintana’s thumb injury, which is expected to keep him from throwing for two weeks, called to attention just how precarious the future of every team is this season.

"We had some concerns about our starting pitching depth,” Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Thursday. “A freak injury further challenges us in that area, and we have to respond."

 

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Starting pitching is a particularly vulnerable area in general. COVID-19 can affect anyone, even a team’s ace. More reports of positive COVID-19 tests are bound to trickle out now that teams are beginning workouts Friday. And with a three-week Summer Camp expediting the ramp-up process, risk of soft-tissue injury becomes a concern for pitchers in particular.

Add into the mix a microscopic surgery on a lacerated nerve in Quintana’s left thumb – the Cubs announced on Thursday that he suffered the injury while washing dishes – and the Cubs are beginning Summer Camp already shorthanded.

“No one’s going to feel sorry for us,” Epstein said. “This this is a bump in the road that we just have to overcome.”

The baseball season could be cancelled for any number of reasons, safety as judged by the league and government officials being the most important. But MLB also has the power to suspend or cancel the season if the competitive integrity of the season is undermined.

What that means isn’t for Epstein to decide, but he declined to give an opinion on the topic Thursday.

“My understanding of what the standards would be don’t necessarily matter,” Epstein said. “It’s a question for the league. I hope we never get in that situation.”

Injuries always have the power to alter a season. But that’s even more so the case during a 60-game season. At best, Quintana’s injury could delay him a several weeks. At worst, even just a three-month recovery time would wipe out his entire season.

For now, the plan is to replace Quintana with someone like Alec Mills. Assuming Mills does win the starting job, that takes him out of his role as a middle reliever, a bullpen spot Cubs manager David Ross emphasized earlier in the week.

“It’ll be really unrealistic to expect guys to get to maybe 100 or so pitches right out of the shoot,” Ross said on Monday. “That may be a bit of a challenge. … The real important areas for me right now is that swingman, your Alec Mills-types that can give you two or three innings ang get to the back end of the bullpen. Those middle innings if guys aren’t stretched out enough are going to be vitally important.”

The ripple effects from Quintana’s injury aren’t nearly enough to undermine the competitive integrity of the season. But what if several teams have their starting pitching depth dramatically affected by COVID-19? What if those teams include the Dodgers and the Yankees?

Now that MLB has started ramping up for the 2020 season, it’s incentivized to keep the season running. But as the Cubs learned this week, just one dish-washing accident can alter a team’s 2020 outlook.

 

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