The Cubs have signed right-handed reliever Tony Barnette to a one-year deal with a club option for 2020, per a club announcement on Friday. He’ll make $750,000 in 2019, with a $3 million option for next year, according to the Chicago Tribune’s Mark Gonzales:
$750,000 for 2019, plus incentives. Club option for 2020 $3 million— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) February 1, 2019
Barnette, 35, has had success over the past three seasons after turning himself into a big-league caliber pitcher over six years in Japan. Though he only has three years of big-league service, he ended up in the free-agent pool this offseason after being non-tendered by the Rangers last winter and then returning to the club on a one-year deal.
Though he missed most of the 2018 campaign due to shoulder issues, Barnette pitched very well when healthy. Over 22 games (26.1 innings), he had a 2.39 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP with 26 strikeouts and five walks. Over three big-league seasons, he has a 3.50 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP in 144 innings of relief.
He joins a Cubs bullpen that was already one of baseball’s deepest last season and has gotten even better this winter. Though the status of closer Brandon Morrow is in doubt due to offseason elbow surgery, Chicago returns veterans Pedro Strop, Steve Cishek, Carl Edwards Jr., Brandon Kintzler, Randy Rosario, and Brian Duensing, as well as offseason signee Brad Brach, who inked a one-year, $4.35 million deal last month. Starters Mike Montgomery, Tyler Chatwood, and Alec Mills, all of whom are projected to fall outside of the Opening Day rotation and are out of options, will be competing for bullpen roles as well, and they’ve signed veteran relievers George Kontos and Junichi Tazawa — both of whom have rather strong big-league track records despite their recent struggles — to minor-league deals. With Barnette still having minor-league options available, it’ll be interesting to see if he ends up in Triple-A at all this season as the Cubs attempt to maintain as much inventory as possible.