The Chicago Cubs have started making headway on their list of non-roster invitees for camp next spring. The club officially added four players on Thursday, signing left-handers Tsuyoshi Wada, Jonathan Sanchez and Tommy Hottovy, and outfielder Mitch Maier to minor-league deals, reports Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune.
Of the four players, Wada has the most potential to make an impact. The former Softbank Hawks star signed a two-year, $8 million contract with the Orioles before the 2012 season, but never made it to the mound in Baltimore. Wada, known as "Dr. K" in Japan, underwent Tommy John surgery shortly after arriving stateside and never made it out of Triple-A in 2013.
Chicago plans to try Wada out as a starter in camp, meaning he has a shot of making the Opening Day rotation if he pitches well enough. A crafty left-hander of the Jamie Moyer variety, Wada tops out in the high-80s with his fastball and complements it with solid command and deception. The 32-year-old made 19 starts for Triple-A Norfolk in 2013 once his elbow healed, posting a 4.03 ERA in 102⅔ innings.
Sanchez is the most recognizable player of the bunch, but his name isn't one that inspires much confidence. The 31-year-old has had a miserable go of things since leaving the Giants in 2011, posting an 8.73 ERA in 78⅓ innings between the Royals, Rockies, and Pirates the last two years. Pittsburgh let him go a month into the 2013 season and he hasn't thrown a big-league inning since.
Any trepidation that Cubs fans may have about Sanchez sneaking his way into the rotation can be cast aside, as Sullivan notes that the club's plan is look at him exclusively as a reliever. Sanchez has never had trouble missing bats in his eight seasons of pro ball -- career 9.1 K/9 -- so moving him to the bullpen as a lefty specialist, where he'd also avoid prolonged and walk-heavy outings, could pay dividends.
Maier and Hottovy are both former Royals who haven't seen any time in the bigs since 2012. The Cubs are already loaded with outfielders, so Maier will likely serve as depth in the high minors. Hottovy, like Sanchez, is a potential LOOGY.