Cubs

Cubs make another low-key addition to bullpen

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AP

Cubs make another low-key addition to bullpen

The Cubs are throwing another name into the ring of relievers for 2019.

The Cubs signed free-agent right-hander Tony Barnette to a one-year deal Friday afternoon. The agreement comes with a club option for 2020.

Barnette is not a household name, but he has 125 career big-league appearances with the Texas Rangers, posting an 11-4 record, 3.50 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. 

He appeared in just 22 games last year with the Rangers, going 2-0 with a 2.39 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 26 strikeouts against only 5 walks in 26.1 innings before a lat injury ended his season prematurely.

Barnette, 35, is a former 2006 10th-round selection by the Arizona Diamondbacks, where he spent three-plus years in the minor leagues before a move to Japan. He pitched for the Yakult Swallows in Tokyo from 2010-15, picking up 97 saves in the Japan Central League.

He returned to the MLB ahead of the 2016 season and has been a part of the Rangers bullpen since.

If the figures are accurate, the Cubs are getting Barnette on a low-risk big-league deal and he will likely be a part of the Opening Day bullpen puzzle, joining Brad Brach as the offseason additions.

With Barnette in tow, the Cubs' bullpen currently looks like this:

Pedro Strop
Carl Edwards Jr.
Steve Cishek
Brad Brach
Mike Montgomery
Brandon Kintzler
Brian Duensing
Tony Barnette

Tyler Chatwood is also owed more than $12 million in 2019, but his role with the team is still undetermined. 

Brandon Morrow is slated to begin the year on the disabled list and the Cubs have a host of other depth options for the bullpen, including Alec Mills, Randy Rosario, Kyle Ryan, Dillon Maples, Rowan Wick, James Norwood, Junichi Tazawa and George Kontos.

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Sports Talk Live Podcast: Will the next 12 games determine the Cubs season?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Will the next 12 games determine the Cubs season?

On this edition of the Sports Talk Live podcast, David Kaplan is joined by Hub Arkush, Mike Esposito and Jason Goch. The guys discuss whether or not the next 12 games will determine the Cubs season. (1:30) Plus how concerned should Cubs fans be with Cole Hamels? (4:15) And the panel discusses who would be the odd man out of the Cubs playoff rotation. (5:20) Plus would you choose to re-sign Nicholas Castellanos over another star? (8:00) Kyle Long apologizes for getting kicked out of practice last week. (11:45) The guys weigh in on the new trend of NFL players not playing at all in the preseason. (13:00) Plus the guys discuss an unlikely candidate to solve the Bears kicking issues. (15:30) Can Joakim Noah coexist with Lebron James? (16:30) The panel discuss whether or not the White Sox should bring back Ivan Nova next season and where does Jose Abreu fit in the rebuilding plans. (18:45) And Sox skipper Rick Renteria gives a strong response to all his social media critics. (20:40)

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Cubs lay out next installment of the plan for Ben Zobrist

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USA TODAY

Cubs lay out next installment of the plan for Ben Zobrist

Ben Zobrist will see more action on the minor-league fields this weekend.

The Cubs announced Tuesday evening the veteran switch-hitter will play for Double-A Tennessee Thursday night in Jackson, Tenn. Then, Zobrist would head back to Iowa where he will play with the Cubs' Triple-A team Friday and Saturday (the Iowa Cubs have a day game Thursday). 

By the time Zobrist is done with his game on Saturday, that could be the one-week mark of his return to the big leagues. If he's activated off the restricted list by the end of the day on Saturday, Aug. 31, he would be eligible for the postseason.

In nine games with Iowa, Advanced Class-A Myrtle Beach and Class-A South Bend over the last couple weekends, Zobrist is hitting .222/.344/.481, good for an .825 OPS with 2 homers and 4 RBI. 

When Zobrist returns, he figures to slot in part-time at second base, as the Cubs already have a pretty stable outfield trio of Jason Heyward-Nicholas Castellanos-Kyle Schwarber.

It remains to be seen whether Joe Maddon will insert Zobrist into the leadoff spot when the veteran switch-hitter is in the lineup, but either way, he could present a nice boost for the team ahead of the stretch run, both on the field and in the clubhouse.

"I've never played with Ben, but I've heard that he's an incredible guy and an even better teammate," said Castellanos, who gave the Cubs an early lead Tuesday night with another first-inning homer.

Zobrist's timeline could coincide nicely for the Cubs since catcher Willson Contreras is projected back in early September. The bullpen is back at full strength once again with Steve Cishek activated off the IL Tuesday and Brandon Kintzler and Craig Kimbrel returning on the recent road trip.

But a lot can happen in the next two weeks and Zobrist still has a couple boxes to check before the Cubs can count on him for the final month of the season.