The Cubs have agreed to a minor league pact with righty James Bourque and invited him to Major League Spring Training, reports MLB.com’s Jon Morosi (Twitter link). The 27-year-old Bourque appeared to be in line to get a look with the Nats in September, but an elbow strain landed him on the IL and limited him to four innings. The Nats removed Bourque from the 40-man roster after the season drew to a close, and he opted for free agency rather than accepting an outright assignment.
A 14th-round pick in 2014, Bourque ranked near the back end of the Nationals’ top 30 farmhands in recent years due largely to a power fastball that sits in the mid 90s and an above-average curveball. Control has increasingly become an issue for Bourque as he’s advanced through the minors and faced better competition, but his strikeout rates have also climbed. In 117 innings from 2018-19, Bourque whiffed 162 batters in just 117 innings — good for 12.5 K/9 and a 32.5 percent overall strikeout rate. He also averaged 4.8 BB/9 with a 12.4 percent walk overall walk rate.
Bourque is the second bullpen flier in as many days for the Cubs, who yesterday agreed to a non-guaranteed, Major League deal with former Yankees setup man Jonathan Holder. Chicago hasn’t spent much on the bullpen at all in recent years outside of a one-time splash with Craig Kimbrel that hasn’t panned out, and the team has also struggled to develop consistently productive arms. As such, there are several spots up for grabs in a largely unsettled bullpen mix, creating Spring Training opportunities for Bourque, Holder and any other speculative adds by new president of baseball ops Jed Hoyer.