Chicago Cubs: Rodrigo Lopez Re-Signed, Rotation Depth Further Bolstered

Jim WeihofenCorrespondent IJanuary 20, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 06: Starting pitcher Rodrigo Lopez #50 of the Chicago Cubs delivers the ball against the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field on September 6, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

On Thursday, Mexican baseball writer Fernando Ballestros tweeted that the Cubs had signed Rodrigo Lopez to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training. My Spanish isn't great, so I don't know what exactly the reference to Luis Ayala and Denis Reyes is in there, though I wouldn't be opposed to the Cubs signing them to minor league deals as well.

In 2011, the Cubs acquired Lopez from the Braves AAA affiliate for struggling minor league left handed pitcher Ryan Butcher, who had been previously acquired from the Nationals in a minor league swap for Matt Avery. Butcher seemed to slowly figure things out in the Braves system in 2011.

Lopez, meanwhile, came up to the Cubs and pitched admirably, posting what wound up being tied for his third lowest season ERA of his career at 4.42, starting 16 games and relieving in 10 more, totaling 97 2/3 innings. While not impressive, Lopez did help plug a hole on the sinking ship that was the Cubs 2011 rotation.

Lopez's split contract will pay him $235,000 in the minor leagues and $900,000 in the major leagues, tweets ESPN Chicago's Bruce Levine.

Added to the moves to acquire Travis Wood, Andy Sonnanstaine, Chris Volstad and Paul Maholm, the Cubs look to have a bona fide battle for rotation spots in the spring. Those four, along with incumbent Cubs Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Casey Coleman, Jeff Samardzija and even possibly a few prospects in Robert Whitenack, Jay Jackson and maybe even Trey McNutt, should guarantee the Cubs plenty of competent major league starting options.

In 2011's spring training, the Cubs seemed to have starting pitching depth, but it vanished by April 10th. When Braden Looper didn't break camp, he retired. Todd Wellemeyer also called it a career after being sent to AAA Iowa. When fourth starter Randy Wells and fifth starter Andrew Cashner went down after only making one start each, the fallacy of that so-called depth was brought to light.

Lopez may not be the sexiest acquisition, but he's a solid minor-league signing. While no team plans on having major injuries, the starting rotation could currently suffer multiple major blows and still perform competently.