Milwaukee Brewers

Cubs add intriguing depth by signing a familiar face

Cubs add intriguing depth by signing a familiar face

The Cubs added another utility player to the mix Tuesday afternoon.

According to MLB Network's Jon Heyman, the Cubs reached an agreement with free agent Hernan Perez on a minor-league deal and the 28-year-old will have a chance to make the big-league roster out of spring training:

Cubs fans have seen a lot of Perez over the last few years as he has filled in as a utilityman for the Milwaukee Brewers since 2015. He has actually played more games against the Cubs (74) than any other team in baseball over his career (the Pirates are the next closest at 68).

A lot of that is because of the Cubs' plethora of left-handed starting pitchers over the last few years. Perez has seen a lot of playing time against the likes of Jon Lester, Cole Hamels, Jose Quintana and Mike Montgomery.

Perez, a right-handed hitter, has posted a career .259/.290/.368 line (.659 OPS) against the Cubs, but he did some damage in 2019 with 3 homers, 5 RBI and an .815 OPS in 13 games.

He has traditionally been a platoon guy throughout his career, with not-so-great numbers (.243 AVG, .632 OPS) against righties but a solid line against southpaws (.270 AVG, .736 OPS). 

Perez has some speed — he stole 34 bases in 2016 and has 69 in his career — and rates as a solid defender all over the field. He's made at least 10 starts at every position but first base, pitcher and catcher.

There's no guarantee for an immediate fit for Perez on the Cubs' roster, but Theo Epstein and Co. are also not at a point where they feel anything is set in stone. A lot could change over the final two months of the offseason and Perez may wind up as a valuable role player. It's a low-risk move that won't break the bank and he gives the roster another dimension with his speed and glovework. 

Perez will show up to camp in Arizona in February with a chance to compete against the likes of David Bote, Tony Kemp, Daniel Descalso and Robel Garcia for a utility role as the Cubs try to fit the puzzle pieces together on the new 26-man roster.

Maybe he could also chip in in the bullpen?

The Cubs' main rivals just keep getting better and better


The Cubs' main rivals just keep getting better and better

Less than an hour after the Cubs finally made a move at the MLB Winter Meetings, GM Jed Hoyer held court with reporters and teased a potentially busy stretch of action around the game.

This week hasn't been filled with megadeals for the game's top players, but Hoyer was true to his word in that several free agents have gone off the board and it just so happens every team around the Cubs has improved their roster in the last 48 hours.

The Brewers added a decent bat to their lineup Monday afternoon and even if they probably paid a bit too much for Avisail Garcia, it's still an upgrade over their previous outfield.

Later Monday night, the Reds continued to fill out what is probably the best starting rotation in the National League Central, inking veteran southpaw Wade Miley to a two-year, $15 million deal.

Then, Tuesday afternoon, the Cardinals found their fifth starter in the form of Korean left-hander Kwang-hyun Kim.

Meanwhile, the Cubs have yet to make a significant move, though there's plenty of offseason left and they figure to be more active on the trade market, not in free agency.

At the moment, the Cubs look like an inferior team compared to the Reds and Cardinals. Sure, there's still a lot of talent on the Cubs roster, but that was the case last season and they wound up winning only 84 games and eliminated from postseason contention with almost a week left in the regular season.

The Reds have added a much-needed bat (Mike Moustakas) and diversified their rotation with the acquisition of Miley. It gives Cincinnati a lefty on an otherwise-right-handed-heavy starting staff and provides depth by moving Tyler Mahle out of the rotation and either into the bullpen or the minor leagues.

Miley, 33, rejuvenated his career in the NL Central with the Brewers in 2018, sporting a 2.57 ERA in 16 starts. He cashed in on that success by signing with the Astros last offseason and wound up making 33 starts for the powerhouse AL West squad, going 14-6 with a 3.98 ERA and 1.35 WHIP. He has typically done a solid job of keeping the ball in the ballpark, so his move to Great American Ballpark shouldn't be too much of an issue.

In 2018, Miley went 2-0 against the Cubs with a 2.45 ERA in two starts. Over his career, he has permitted just a .214 batting average against the Cubs (10 starts).

The Reds don't need Miley to be anything more than a No. 4 starter, since they already boast a powerful three-headed combo atop the rotation in Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo and Trevor Bauer. Miley's addition is one more reminder the Reds are making a strong push for the division in 2020.

The Cardinals — the reigning NL Central champs — made it just a few wins away from the World Series this past fall and responded by re-signing veteran Adam Wainwright to the rotation. They added to that with the Kim move Tuesday with a two-year, $8 million deal:

Kim, 31, has spent his entire professional career in the Korean Baseball Organization, where he's worked almost exclusively as a starter. He went 17-6 with a 2.51 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 8.5 K/9 in 31 outings (30 starts) for the SK Wyverns in 2019.

He has a career 3.27 ERA in Korea and has steadily improved his walk rate in recent seasons. Kim would probably slot in as the Cardinals' fifth starter, behind Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas, Dakota Hudson and Wainwright.

St. Louis still needs to find a way to replace Marcell Ozuna's bat in the lineup, but their pitching is in better shape now than it was to begin the offseason.

The Cubs insist they'd be comfortable heading into 2020 with a "status quo" roster, but they also desire major change in the clubhouse mix and will almost assuredly trade a player or two to help meet their short- and long-term needs. 

Despite the plan to potentially take a step back next season, Theo Epstein and Co. are not in the midst of a full-on rebuild and plan to be a contender in 2020 once again. But regardless of what their roster looks like, the Cubs should face some steep competition in the NL Central next season in what is shaping up to be a fascinating four-team race. 

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Brewers pay a premium for offensive upgrade


Brewers pay a premium for offensive upgrade

The Milwaukee Brewers either really believe in Avisail Garcia or else they were desperate for a bat.

After losing Yasmani Grandal (White Sox) and Mike Moustakas (Reds) to free agency, the Brewers turned around and filled a need by inking Garcia to a two-year, $20 million deal Monday afternoon:

Garcia set a new career high with 20 homers in 2019 while playing with the Rays, but seemingly everybody set new personal bests in longballs last season and by comparison, 20 isn't a hefty total. He also only made $3.5 million after being non-tendered by the White Sox last winter, so this is a serious pay raise. 

The Brewers spent much of the offseason shedding payroll and revamping their roster, but it seems odd to turn around and invest all those savings into an outfielder who is not a great defender and has notched only 1.9 WAR combined over the last two seasons. For reference, MLB Trade Rumors predicted Garcia would sign a contract worth $12 million over two years and FanGraphs' crowdsource came in at two years, $13.5 million.

He's only 28, but Garcia has posted an above-average offensive season just three times in his seven years in the big leagues. He is a career .273 hitter with a .323 on-base percentage, but both of those numbers are buoyed by his 2017 season (.330 AVG, .380 OBP) that looks like an outlier against the rest of his career.

He also has never played even 150 games in a season while dealing with injuries every season.

Still, it's an upgrade for the Brewers who began the day with Ben Gamel projected as their everyday left fielder and Ryan Braun on track to move to first base full time. Garcia figures to slot in behind Braun, Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain and Keston Hiura in the Milwaukee batting order. 

The offseason isn't over yet, but it's certainly a sizeable investment for a team with budget issues to spend on a player with major weaknesses in his game. Next season is shaping up as an interesting year for the NL Central as four teams (Brewers, Cubs, Reds, Cardinals) figure to be in contention.

Worth noting: Garcia is just 1-for-22 in his career at Wrigley Field, good for an .045 batting average. He has hit .143 with a .329 OPS against Cubs pitching in 12 career games. 

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