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15 Cubs are now minor-league free agents

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It’s an annual rite in baseball.

Trevor Clifton
Trevor Clifton pitching for Myrtle Beach in 2016
Larry Kave/Myrtle Beach Pelicans

Every fall, dozens of minor leaguers become free agents for various reasons. Either the terms of their contract end, similar to major leaguers, or they have reached six years since their original signing.

The folks at Baseball America helpfully put together a list of minor-league free agents from all 30 teams. Here are the Cubs minor-league free agents:

Pitchers: Trevor Clifton, Enrique de los Rios, Chih-Wei Hu, Erick Leal, Allen Webster, Alex Wilson, Manuel Rondon
Catchers: Taylor Davis, Will Remillard
First baseman: Yasiel Balaguert
Second baseman: Phillip Evans
Third baseman: Gioskar Amaya
Shortstop: Dixon Machado
Outfielders: Johnny Field, Chris Pieters

You’ll recognize several of those names, including Allen Webster, who pitched in the majors for the Cubs this year. He was recently outrighted to Triple-A Iowa, but had the right to declare free agency and has done so. Taylor Davis, you certainly remember; he might wind up as a coach in the organization. Erick Leal was once highly regarded. He was acquired in 2012 for Tony Campana. Manuel Rondon was so well thought of that he was sent to the Arizona Fall League just last year, but he had a rough 2019. Johnny Field played in 25 spring-training games for the Cubs last March. Gioskar Amaya and Yasiel Balaguert were also well-known to spring-training fans in recent years as guys who came over from the minor-league camp to play the last innings of spring games. Alex Wilson had a good year in relief for the Tigers as recently as 2018. Lastly, Trevor Clifton was once thought of as a pretty good pitching prospect, but he had a mediocre year at Iowa and is being let go. He’s only 24; he might catch on with another team.

Arizona Phil at The Cub Reporter has some further details, other names worth noting, and an explanation of how the minor-league free agent rule (officially MLB Rule 55) works.

Here are some other former Cubs (or former Cubs minor leaguers) on the list:

Arismendy Alcantara, John Andreoli, Pedro Araujo, Jeffrey Baez, Andres Blanco, Jake Buchanan, Matt Carasiti, Justin Grimm, Brandon Guyer, Brad Markey, Ricky Nolasco, Donn Roach, Matt Szczur, Jen-Ho Tseng, Rob Zastryzny

Every spring, teams look through these lists for guys who might have been overlooked, or had a rough year after being pretty good through their minor-league career, or looking to find minor-league depth. The Cubs will almost certainly sign a handful of these guys to minor-league deals and invite them to spring training. Among names I found interesting:

Jett Bandy, Billy Burns, Randall Delgado, Terrance Gore, Greg Holland, Ryan Lavarnway, Zach Lee, Jake Petricka, Dalton Pompey, Trevor Rosenthal

I’m not suggesting the Cubs sign all those guys, just that these players are now free agents and some of them have had significant MLB success. Might be worth a flyer on Rosenthal, for example, and the Cubs almost always bring a veteran catcher into camp, so Bandy or Lavarnway might be signed for that purpose (to be the “break glass in case of emergency” guy at Iowa). And I wouldn’t mind the Cubs stashing Gore at Iowa for possible use in the postseason, if they can get back there in 2020.

Anyway, it’s worth perusing the entire list just to see who’s out there. Expect the Cubs to sign four or five guys like this before spring training begins.