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Cubs sign lefthander Luke Hagerty, 17 years after drafting him in the first round

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This will be the feel-good story of the year, if he makes it to the big leagues.

MLB Photos via Getty Images

Luke Hagerty was the Cubs’ No. 1 pick (supplemental, 32nd overall) in 2002. He threw very well in his first stop in the system, then got injured and had Tommy John surgery and after that, had trouble throwing strikes. He washed out of the Cubs system by 2006 and his last professional stop was with Schaumburg in indy ball in 2008.

Since then Hagerty has created X2 Athletics, a sports and fitness gym in Scottsdale, Arizona. Recently he threw, along with several other former big leaguers and others, in a Driveline Pro Day session in Seattle. He touched 97 and 98 miles per hour consistently.

I reported this three weeks ago, then wrote about Hagerty again when it was noted he’d thrown harder than anyone at the session, then again 10 days ago when I learned that several big-league teams had expressed interest in signing Hagerty.

Today I can tell you that the Cubs indeed have signed Luke Hagerty to a non-guaranteed minor-league contract. It doesn’t have a major-league spring invite, per his agent Josh Knipp, and likely he will wind up at extended spring training after camp is over. Knipp told me that with his advanced knowledge and the Cubs’ advanced game plan, he could move very quickly after that.

Hagerty will turn 38 April 1, and that alone would tell a story if he can make it to the big leagues:

Jeff Passan’s article linked above tells Hagerty’s story in great detail, from the injury to the yips that ruined his attempt to come back, and his life story since then. I commend you to read it if you haven’t already; it tells a story of perseverance through tough times and Hagerty’s belief in himself, backed up by his wife Rachel, who supported him through all of it, and details how the Cubs eventually did sign him to a minor-league deal, and what he’s been doing at the Cubs complex in Mesa so far this spring.

It’s a longshot, to be sure. He is nearly 38 and has been away from competitive baseball for a decade. But he’s throwing harder than almost anyone the Cubs have around right now and as a lefthander without a lot of miles on his arm, he might be just the kind of guy who can get tough lefties out. He’s got a long road still ahead to make it to the big leagues, but based on what’s in Passan’s article, I think Hagerty has what it takes to make it.

From Passan’s article:

They outlined the plan: Get him to their spring-training complex in Mesa, Arizona, well before minor leaguers arrive and allow Hagerty to dictate his pace. Their indoor facility is similar to X2’s. He could start throwing outside and facing hitters when he’s ready. They wouldn’t push his regular-season assignment, either. Maybe he stays in extended spring training for more reps. Maybe he pitches his way to Triple-A out of spring training. Maybe he goes level by level and winds up at Wrigley Field in September.

For all the grand scenarios they played up, the Cubs held one distinct advantage over Milwaukee: They were the Cubs.

”He’d talked about this, how much they’d done for him,” Rachel says. “He felt like he didn’t give them that back yet. Almost like a letdown. This is his opportunity to redeem himself. He owed them something. It’s unfinished business that he’s getting a chance to fix.”

I’ll be rooting hard for him to make it. I think he can help the Cubs in the major leagues sometime in 2019. And beyond the baseball ability, this would be one of the best stories in the game this year.