The Cubs have agreed to a minor-league deal with reliever George Kontos, according to Bruce Levine of 670TheScore.com (via Twitter). The deal comes with an invitation to participate in spring camp as a non-roster player.
Kontos, 33, has a long track record of getting results at the MLB level, though he has rarely flashed truly convincing peripherals. It’s hard to argue with 357 frames of 3.10 ERA pitching in the bigs. At the same time, with an underwhelming combination of 6.7 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, and a 43.7% groundball rate for his career, Kontos carries only a 3.82 FIP, 4.00 xFIP, and 3.76 SIERA.
Generating light contact has been the name of the game for Kontos, who has held opposing hitters to a .265 batting average on balls in play for his career. Despite the unremarkable strikeout totals, he has also carried a strong 11.7% lifetime swinging-strike rate. Most intriguing of all was a 2017 bump in that statistic to an elite 16.4% level, though Kontos did not carry that with him into the ensuing campaign. He ultimately matched his career-worst ERA last year, allowing 4.39 earned runs per nine over 26 2/3 innings while bouncing between three teams.
All said, there’s plenty to like in securing Kontos on a minor-league deal. At worst, he represents a quality depth option to have on hand. And that past whiff rate does still tantalize, particularly since (as Levine notes) Kontos has shown an uptick in his velocity in workouts this winter. His typically low-nineties heater had trended down a bit in 2018.