The Cubs announced that they signed infielders Edgar Gonzalez and Matt Tolbert to minor league deals that include invitations to MLB Spring Training.
Tolbert appeared at short, second and third for the 2011 Twins, posting a .518 OPS in 226 plate appearances. Tolber, 29, played 87 games before being cut in October. His stats were not earth shattering:
0 HR -11 RBI - 2 SB .198 BA. Scouts consider him below average defense infielder.
Gonzalez, 33, picked up MLB experience with the Padres in 2008-09, but spent last year with San Francisco's top affiliate. He posted a .315/.378/.457 line in 564 Triple-A plate appearances last year. He hit 14 HR-82 RBI- 14 SB while playing second and OF in AAA.
In addition, the Cubs invited long time farm hand Bobby Scales, 34, to spring training. Last season Scales played at Iowa and in Japan.
In 2011, between Iowa and Nippon Ham Fighters, 18 HR -73 RBI- 7 SB, .280 BA.
Average fielder at second base.
In 2010, in limited duty with the Cubs, Scales batted .308, 0 HR-2 RBI-1SB in 10 games.
An invitation to spring training is really "show me what your got" try out for the major league roster. It usually means the team has a concern or weakness at certain positions. The Cubs appear to be unsettled on infield depth, and especially second base.
Darwin Barney, in his rookie season, started off fast but had a significant drop-off in the second half. HIs season line was:
143 games: 570 PA 66 R 146 H 2 HR 43 RBI 9 SB 22 BB 67 K .276 BA
The concerns with Barney's production are two fold: lack of power, and high strikeout to walk ratio. Since he does not walk very often, he is not a top of the lineup type of hitter (lead off or #2). That puts him down at the bottom of the order (#8) for which you need more power or on-base percentage to turnover the order quicker during games.
Hoyer is apparently looking to see if Scales or Gonzalez have enough home run pop left in their bats to be a regular infielder or to supply something off the bench. This is the cheap but risky solution to the second base issue. It could be easily solved if the Cubs would trade for a veteran on the market, like the Braves Martin Prado. But the Cubs decided to use the slow, uphill route in filling their roster with cast-offs and AAA players.
In any event, Barney will be on the hot seat this spring. The pressure will be on him to have an excellent spring in order to convince Hoyer that he is an everyday second baseman.