Did Chicago Cubs Possibly Pay $5 Million for a Minor Leaguer?

Chicago Cubs Carlos Villanueva

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Cubs and Carlos Villanueva have agreed on a two-year contract. The deal is worth $10 million. In 2012, Villanueva had a 4.16 ERA in 16 starts and 22 relief appearances for the Toronto Blue Jays. For his career, Villanueva has a 4.26 ERA. He spent five seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers.

One may assume that Villanueva would make the starting rotation. That’s not necessarily the case. Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija and Edwin Jackson are all-but-guaranteed to start. That’s three-fifths of the rotation. These pitchers will make the cut because they either have too much upside or money invested into them.

That leaves two openings for a group that consists of Scott Baker, Scott Feldman, Travis Wood and Villanueva. Baker, Feldman and Villanueva were all signed this offseason. Feldman signed a one-year, $6 million contract. Baker signed a one-year, $5.5 million contract. Villanueva will make $5 million per season.

What does this mean? At least one of those free agents won’t make the starting rotation. Manager Dale Sveum would probably use that pitcher as a spot starter or middle reliever. If Wood makes the rotation, then one of those free agents could start at Triple-A, much like John Lannan did with the Washington Nationals in 2012.

Pitching depth was needed. Are the Cubs paying too much for it? Since most of these contracts are no longer than one year, it shouldn’t have much of a long-term effect. It’ll just look foolish when they’re paying a middle reliever or Triple-A pitcher like a No. 3 MLB starter.

Not a bad gig for these pitchers.

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