Amongst the minor league free agents the Cubs have signed, two names stand out: Kevin Millar and Chad Tracy.
Millar helped the Boston Red Sox break their World Series Championship curse, and Tracy was once considered one of the elite young corner infielders in the game, but both these things were half a decade ago.
Since then, both players have gone from stardom to obscurity. Millar's batting average has begun to falter to the hands of time, hitting .272, .254, .234, and .223 over the past four years, respectively. He's gone from full time first baseman/DH to a backup at those positions, and an emergency third baseman.
However, he still provides a great amount of clubhouse chemistry and a veteran backup bat, either on the bench or with the AAA Iowa Cubs.
Tracy, however, is a more interesting story. In his rookie season at age 24, Tracy put up a highly respectable line of .285-8-53, even while posting a major league low .935 fielding percentage at third base.
His sophomore season was much more successful, hitting .308-27-72, primarily playing at first base and right field. 2006 saw Tracy return to third base, posting .281-20-80 at the plate, and again fielding .935 at third in 147 games at third base.
At this point, he seemed like a fringe star ready to break out: A lefty hitter who could play three positions, he seemed like a valuable player in the Arizona organization who they could move around to get the best team on the field (he'd also played seven games in left field at this point).
However, Tracy's stats took another downturn, as he posted a career low .264 average (and a dismal .222 with two outs and runners in scoring position), and was relegated to backup role, playing in a career low 76 games.
Things wouldn't get better for Tracy in 2008 or 2009, hitting .267 and .237, respectively. However, his games played would continue to increase, playing in 88 games in '08 and 98 games in '09. Tracy had lost his job to various players at various positions: Mark Reynolds at third base, Josh Whitesell at first base, Justin Upton in right field, and Geraldo Perra in left field.
The combination of young Diamondbacks talent and Tracy's dwindling statistical lines lead to his release after the 2009 season.
Enter the Cubs aspect. In the last days of January 2010, Chad Tracy signed a minor league deal on the 26th, and the deal was announced a day later. Tracy received an invitation to spring training as part of the deal, along with a $100,000 bonus should he manage to win National League Comeback Player of the Year.
While Tracy probably will not get the playing time to win that award, there is a good chance he will become a useful bench piece for the Cubs. With only a few left handed batters on the team (Kosuke Fukudome, Mike Fontenot, switch hitters Koyie Hill and Andres Blanco; and possibles in Micah Hoffpaiur, Sam Fuld, and Bryan LaHair), Tracy could easily be poised for a shot as a bench warmer.
With experience in positions the Cubs showed huge holes in during the 2009 season due to injury (namely third base and left field), Tracy is positioned well for a trip north with the team.
The biggest factor Tracy has on his side is simply a change of scenery. He'd been scuffling in Arizona. If healthy and able to regain his stride, Tracy could prove to be a major asset off the Cubs bench.
I'm sure Jim Hendry would love for that to happen too.