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The Ex-Cub Factor

One in an occasional series tracking the movements of former Cubs.

1. Darwin Barney.

Boy did former Cub Factor writer Marty Gangler used to hate Darwin Barney. He once wrote that Barney "should never be starting on a major league roster."

True, the following week he begrudgingly acknowledged that "Darwin Barney Is Adequate," but I'm not sure he ever really thought that.

(Perhaps my favorite line of Marty's about Darwin, circa April 2012: "So yeah, I have no illusions of this even being a .500 team this year, but I do know that I'd be up for a beer with Mr. LaHair. Heck, I wouldn't even have an issue if Darwin Barney tagged along - he'll always run to the bar to get the next round because he sure doesn't walk much."

(Then again, there was "Free eye exam for every Darwin Barney seeing-eye single" and "Darwin Barney started every game this week and got six hits with no walks. He just continues to be Darwin Barney," so it's hard to choose.)

The last time The Ex-Cub Factor featured Barney was last June, when we noted he was "an investor in a consortium trying to land an MLB franchise for Portland."

Now Barney has a new gig: manager of the Ranger's Triple-A team in Nashville.

2. Starlin Castro.

Barney's one-time infield colleague was once seen as a foundational piece for the Cubs, before the team finally lost patience with his seeming inability to focus. Castro found greener grass in New York, returning to the All-Star Game as a Yankee in 2017 (he appeared in three as a Cub), then found himself stuck in Miami the last two seasons.

Now Castro is back with a winner: The Nationals just signed him to a two-year, $12 million deal. He's the presumptive starting second baseman, the position he has manned almost exclusively after starting his career as the Cubs' shortstop of the future.

The Castro signing has baffled some in Washington, but FanGraphs speculates that Castro's second-half surge - due to a change in his launch angle, suggesting sustainability - is behind the deal.

3. Arismendy Alcántara.

MLBTradeRumors.com:

"The Angels signed former Cubs' prospect Arismendy Alcántara. Alcántara hasn't played at the highest level since 2017, and his career .189/.235/.315 line (49 wRC+) reflects the plate discipline woes that have done him in. He's still just 28 years old, though, and his 2019 return to affiliated ball following a year in the Mexican League went well. The utilityman was productive across two minor-league levels in the Mets' organization last season and showed better discipline than he has in his MLB career."

4. Steve Cishek.

"It turns out Steve Cishek was too rich for the Boston Red Sox' blood, after all," NBC Sports Boston reports.

And, apparently, the Cubs' blood.

Or maybe the Cubs figured they'd used up the best parts of what's left of Cishek's oft-used arm.

Anyway . . .

The free-agent reliever has agreed to a one-year, $6 million contract with the Chicago White Sox that includes a second-year option also worth $6 million, ESPN's Jeff Passan reported Tuesday.

Cishek, a Falmouth, Mass., native who spent the past two seasons with the Chicago Cubs, had expressed interest in signing with the Red Sox in free agency, per The Athletic's Peter Gammons.

Gammons also noted the right-hander may be out of Boston's price range, however, given the team's stated goal of shedding payroll in 2020 and staying under the luxury tax in Chaim Bloom's first season as chief baseball officer.

Cishek still took a slight pay cut to join the White Sox, as he earned $13 million in base salary over two years with the Cubs with an additional $1 million in incentives.

I'd say that's too rich for the Ricketts' blood, but I'm not sure the Ricketts' have blood.

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"The White Sox will be Cishek's sixth MLB team entering his 11th MLB season. The 33-year-old put up solid numbers for the Cubs, posting a 2.55 ERA and 1.12 WHIP over 150 appearances in the last two seasons."

5. Jen-Ho Tseng.

Reminder: Tseng was the Cub's Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2017.

Now?

"Auckland Tuatara have added to their depleted pitching depth, signing a former Major League pitcher and a talented prospect for their final push for the Australian Baseball League playoffs," New Zealand's NewsHub reports.

"Former Chicago Cubs right-hand hurler Jen-Ho Tseng has agreed to join the club until the end of the campaign and will link up with the side on Thursday for a road series against the Sydney Blue Sox."

6. Brett Anderson.

Anderson only got 22 awful innings in for the Cubs in 2017 before he was released that July (although his 8.18 ERA was paired with a 4.52 FIP, so maybe not as awful as we thought). He signed with the Blue Jays and pitched to a 3.82 FIP the rest of that season, then spent two seasons back in Oakland, where he played for the first five years of his career.

In 2018, he notched a 4.48/4.17 ERA/FIP line, and in 2019 3.89/4.57 (over 176 innings, the most the oft-injured pitcher has thrown since 2015.

The Brewers have now signed him to a 1-year, $5 million deal.

7. Mike Freeman.

Cleveland has designated him for assignment.

"Although the Indians booted Freeman from their 40-man roster, he's actually coming off a respectable season. Freeman amassed a personal-high 213 plate appearances in 2019 and slashed a playable .277/.362/.390 (good for a nearly league-average 99 wRC+), though he did benefit from an unsustainable .388 batting average on balls in play. Defensively, Freeman saw action at three infield positions - second, third and short - as well as left field. Freeman even pitched two innings for the team . . .

"Considering his decent 2019 showing, it's possible Freeman will return to the open market a little over a year after the Indians signed him to a minor league contract. Before joining the Cleveland organization, Freeman received big league at-bats with the Diamondbacks (who chose him in the 11th round of the 2010 draft), Mariners, Cubs and Dodgers. He's a lifetime .232/.316/.332 hitter across 304 PA in the majors and a .305/.372/.418 batter in 2,030 attempts in Triple-A ball."

But . . .

"Freeman . . . accepted his outright assignment to Class AAA Columbus and was invited to spring training in February in Goodyear."

He's even scheduled to appear at Tribe Fest.

8. Elliot Soto.

Who?

"The Angels have signed shortstop Elliot Soto to a minors pact with an invitation to major league camp, Jon Heyman of MLB Network tweets.

"A 15th-round pick of the Cubs in 2010, the diminutive Soto (5 foot 9, 160 pounds) hasn't gotten past Triple-A ball among his three professional organizations - Chicago, Miami and Colorado.

"The 30-year-old Soto did, however, show well at the minors' highest level last season in the Rockies organization, as he batted .305/.380/,480 (111 wRC+) with 10 home runs and eight stolen bases over 463 plate appearances."

9. Shane, Jeremy and Luke Farrell.

"The Toronto Blue Jays are getting set to name Shane Farrell as their new amateur scouting director, per sources for Robert Murray (via Twitter), previously of The Athletic. Farrell has been the west coast crosschecker for the Chicago Cubs," MLBTradeRumors.com reports.

Chicago and Toronto both are undergoing behind the scenes makeovers this offseason, to varying degrees. Toronto is in need of new blood due to the departure of Ben Cherington to Pittsburgh. Chicago, meanwhile, has remade parts of their scouting and development departments, ostensibly driven by the stagnation of the team's development pipeline.

Farrell's departure from Chicago isn't all that shocking after interviewing for and missing out on a VP of Scouting role that went to Dan Kantrovitz, a former assistant GM with the A's. The Cubs also lost national crosschecker Sam Hughes to the Yankees this offseason, per The Athletic's Sahadev Sharma.

Farrell, of course, is the son of the well-known former Red Sox and Blue Jays manager John Farrell, currently a scout for the Reds. The Cubs still have one Farrell connection, as Shane's brother Jeremy is an assistant director of baseball development with the organization, while the third Farrell brother, Luke Farrell, is a former Cubs farmhand, who made 9 quality appearances for the Rangers in 2019.

Luke Farrell is a Northwestern University product, selected by the Royals in the 6th round of the 2013 draft. As far as I can tell, he's still with the Rangers.

10. Pierce Johnson.

"Pierce Johnson reportedly signed a two-year with the San Diego Padres," FanGraphs notes.

"The 28-year-old right-hander had a 1.38 ERA in 58 relief appearances this year with NPB's Hanshin Tigers."

It's a 2-year, $5 million deal.

For a hot second there it looked like Johnson might actually be an example of the Theo regime actually drafting and developing a starting pitcher. He ended up only pitching one inning for the Cubs big-league team - in 2017 - giving up two hits and a walk.

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Comments welcome.

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Posted on Feb 14, 2020