The Cubs are in agreement with right-hander Jean Machi on a minor league contract, according to a tweet from his agent, Felix Olivo. The former Red Sox/Giants right-hander will receive an invitation to Major League Spring Training (Spanish link).
Machi, who turns 34 in February, split the 2015 season between the Red Sox and Giants, working to a combined 5.12 ERA with 6.5 K/9, 3.4 BB/9 and a 48.6 percent ground-ball rate. Though he struggled with both clubs, posting an ERA above five with each, he still served as Boston’s closer for a spell late in the season, recording four saves following a season-ending injury to Koji Uehara.
While the 2015 season was one that Machi may want to forget, he was a very strong bullpen piece for the Giants in 2013-14. During that time, the Venezuelan righty recorded a pristine 2.49 ERA with 7.7 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and a ground-ball rate of about 53 percent across 119 1/3 innings. Machi didn’t make his big league debut until age 30, so he’s older than the standard arbitration eligible player, but the Cubs will be able to control him via that process for four seasons, should he rediscover the form he displayed during his pair of strong seasons with the Giants.
There’s some reason to hope that Machi can indeed achieve those heights. His struggles in 2015 were largely driven by a fluky low strand rate and an elevated homer-to-flyball rate. If either or both of those figures returns to his career levels, Machi could deliver a markedly better performance in a middle relief role. His velocity, after all, held steady at 92.7 mph this past season, and ERA estimators like FIP, xFIP and SIERA felt that while he did indeed take a step back from his peak, he was better than his bottom-line results indicated.