Taking a small risk, Cubs closing in on Chang-Yong Lim

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Taking a small risk, Cubs closing in on Chang-Yong Lim

The Cubs continue to make investments in the international market and take chances on pitchers recovering from injuries.

Chang-Yong Lim spoke with reporters on Thursday at Incheon International Airport outside Seoul, South Korea, indicating he had a deal that could be worth 5 million over two years.

The Cubs have not commented on the reports, though sources said the money has been overstated, cautioning that if they close the deal, it would be a two-year minor-league contract that contains only a small amount guaranteed. It would not come with a spot on the 40-man roster.

MORE: The story behind the Cubs drafting 49ers QB Kaepernick

For the Cubs, this is a play for 2014 as Lim recovers from elbow surgery. But that appears to be part of their broader strategy, collecting players who may be undervalued because of health concerns.

Im happy that my dream has finally come true, Lim said, according to Reuters. Im not young anymore and I wanted to do something that Ive never experienced before.

Lim who will turn 37 in June pitched seven scoreless innings for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows last season before shutting it down. He had notched 128 saves across the previous four seasons combined.

Going off Lims career numbers in Japan a 2.09 ERA with 231 strikeouts against 68 walks in 233 innings he profiles as the type of pitcher this front office values, someone who can control the zone and follow the game plan.

Lim a 5-foot-11, 175-pound right-hander pitched for Korea in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. He earned a bronze medal with South Korea at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

This comes one week after introducing Japanese closer Kyuji Fujikawa with a press conferencephoto shoot at Wrigley Field.

MORE: Cubs waiting to put Fujikawa in the spotlight

Between Lim and Fujikawa, the Cubs could have some interesting options at the back end of their bullpen by 2014. Theyre also reportedly among the teams pursuing veteran reliever Mike Adams, though their interest level is unclear. They were prepared to lose out on Jason Grilli, another bullpen arm who this week agreed to return to the Pittsburgh Pirates on a two-year, 6.75 million deal.

For now, Carlos Marmol is penciled in as the Opening Day closer, as Fujikawa gets acclimated to his new surroundings. On this level, Lim will fit in, if only because hell be on rehab assignments.

Last week, the Cubs took Hector Rondon with the second pick in the Rule 5 draft, hoping he could recapture the form that made him a good pitching prospect with the Cleveland Indians before elbow injuries wiped out most of his past three seasons.

Last month, the Cubs gave Scott Baker 5.5 million, plus incentives, on a one-year deal, even though he didnt throw a pitch for the Minnesota Twins last season, believing he will come back strong from Tommy John surgery.

MORE: Cubs' offseason moves just beginning

Last summer, the Cubs made Arodys Vizcaino the centerpiece of a trade deadline deal with the Atlanta Braves, flipping Paul Maholm for a prospect recovering from the Tommy John procedure, with the expectation he could join the big-league rotation at some point in 2013.

This is a creative way to address the problem team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer have been staring at since taking over at Clark and Addison more than a year ago: Not enough pitching.

Cubs, White Sox react to tragic deaths of Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

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AP

Cubs, White Sox react to tragic deaths of Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

The sports world woke up to some tragic news on Sunday morning.

Former major leaguer Andy Marte and Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura were both killed in separate car accidents in the Dominican Republic within an hour of each other, according to multiple reports. A Royals representative confirmed the death of 25-year-old Ventura.

The Cubs and White Sox took to Twitter to give their condolences:

Ventura was a member of the Royals from 2013-16 and won a World Series title in 2015 with Ben Zobrist and Wade Davis, who the Cubs acquired this offseason for Jorge Soler. Ventura also played with White Sox pitcher James Shields in 2013-14.

Marte, 33, played a majority of his seven-year career with the Cleveland Indians. He was teammates with Todd Hollandsworth (Atlanta 2005), Kerry Wood (Cleveland 2009-10), and Miguel Montero (Arizona 2014).

Why Cubs are excited for pitching prospect Dylan Cease: He's 'throwing lightning bolts'

Why Cubs are excited for pitching prospect Dylan Cease: He's 'throwing lightning bolts'

Theo Epstein's front office is heading into Year 6 with the Cubs and they're finally talking about a pitcher as one of the organization's most exciting prospects.

That's how senior vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod framed his Dylan Cease report to fans at the Cubs Convention at the Sheraton Grand Chicago last weekend.

It was a tongue-in-cheek summation from McLeod after he spent the previous few minutes fawning over Cease, the Cubs' sixth round pick in 2014.

Of course, McLeod and the Cubs can poke fun at the lack of impact pitching the farm system has developed when the homegrown position players like Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber just helped lead the franchise to its first World Series championship in over a century.

Cease, however, has been one of the more intriguing Cubs prospects for years — a right-handed pitcher capable of touching 101 mph on the radar gun.

"This guy is throwing lightning bolts out of his arm," McLeod said. "It's really exciting. But we also understaned he's only in Low-A this year, so he's far away."

The Cubs expect Cease to pitch for Class-A South Bend in 2017 after spending last season pitching for short-season Eugene and the 2015 campaign working in the rookie league in Arizona.

Cease — who just turned 21 in late December — put up some impressive numbers at both stops in the Cubs system, posting a 2.36 ERA and 1.165 WHIP to go along with a whopping 91 strikeouts in 68.2 innings. He also only surrendered one homer and walked more batters (41) than reached via a basehit (39).

Control is obviously an issue for Cease, but the upside is evident.

"He's so far away," McLeod said. "He's gonna go into 2017 as a starter. As with a lot of young guys, it's gonna come down to command and depend on that third pitch and the ability to land them for strikes.

"It's a special arm. He can pitch 95-100 mph with a big power curveball. He's unlike anyone else we have in our system since we've been here in terms of pure stuff."

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One fan compared Cease to Carl Edwards Jr. in terms of their lanky build and high velocity, setting McLeod up for a layup joke.

"Well, Dylan is much stronger physically than CJ is...as is everybody in this room," McLeod said as the ballroom filled with laugher. "Don't tell [CJ] I said that. 

"They have different body types, obviously. Carl is long and lanky and Dylan has probably put on 20 pounds since we drafted him, so he's more like 6-foot-2, 190."

By comparison, Edwards — who goes by "The String Bean Slinger" for his slight build — is listed at 6-foot-3, 170 pounds.

Edwards was drafted in the 48th round in 2011 and spent his whole minor-league career as a starting pitcher until the Cubs converted him to a reliever in 2015.

Cease may eventually go down the same path, but the Cubs are going to give him every opportunity to make it as a starter first.

Cease was one of the top pitchers available in the 2014 draft, but his stock took a hit when he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow while at Milton High School in Georgia.

That scared off a lot of teams — as did the potential signability issues with college offers looming — but the Cubs took a chance and have now watched Cease soar to a top prospect in the system (No. 4 by Baseball America; No. 7 by FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus) despite the cautious approach and lack of innings in professional ball.

"We have to thank Kyle Schwarber, actually, as one of the main reasons we got to sign Dylan Cease," McLeod said. "Because we took Kyle fourth overall, we were able to save money on the selection with him, which gave us the resources to go get Dylan Cease.

"He was a Top 10 pick in the draft — a high school arm that got hurt, fell down to the fifth round and he had a commitment to Vanderbilt, I think it was, and we were able to use the money we saved from Kyle.

"Just another reason to love Kyle Schwarber."