The Cubs have inked infielder Sergio Alcántara and reliever Roenis Elías to minor league contracts, the team informed reporters (including Maddie Lee of the Chicago Sun-Times). Both players receive invitations to MLB Spring Training.
Alcántara is back for a second stint in Chicago. The Cubs claimed him off waivers from the Tigers in February 2021, and he spent the year in the organization. The switch-hitting infielder played in just over half their MLB contests that season, picking up a personal-high 255 plate appearances. Alcántara hit only .205/.303/.327 with five home runs. Chicago designated him for assignment last March and sold his contract to the Diamondbacks.
For the 2022 campaign, Alcántara bounced between Arizona and the Padres on waivers. The Snakes lost him in May before bringing him back in July. He played out the year in the desert but was taken off the 40-man roster at season’s end. Upon going unclaimed on waivers, he became a minor league free agent.
Over parts of three MLB seasons, Alcántara owns a .209/.281/.343 line in 502 trips to the plate. He’s gone down on strikes at an elevated 26.9% clip and posted below-average power production while generally featuring at the bottom of a lineup. The 26-year-old has only 25 games of Triple-A experience and had a fairly light .261/.340/.317 showing in just under 900 plate appearances at Double-A.
While he’s never been much of a hitter, Alcántara is a well-regarded and versatile infield defender. He has plenty of experience at second, shortstop and third base and has rated favorably at shortstop in the eyes of public defensive metrics (albeit with curiously subpar marks at the less challenging second and third base positions). Scouts consistently credited him as a plus defensive shortstop throughout his time in the minors, even if longstanding questions about his bat have pointed to a utility future. He’ll add some familiarity and upper level experience to Cubs camp and compete for a spot on the bench behind Chicago’s middle infield tandem of Dansby Swanson and Nico Hoerner. Alcántara is out of minor league option years, so if he cracks the 40-man roster at any point, he’ll either have to stick in the majors or again be made available to other teams.
Elías is a veteran left-hander with parts of seven MLB campaigns under his belt. A starter for his first couple seasons with the Mariners, he has worked primarily out of the bullpen in recent years. Elías had some success with the Mariners and Nationals between 2018-19, but his career was sidetracked when his elbow blew out and he required Tommy John surgery in March 2021.
After losing that season to rehab, he returned on a minor league deal with Seattle in 2022. The 34-year-old briefly made it back to the big leagues, working seven times and allowing three runs over 7 1/3 innings. Elías averaged 93.5 MPH on his fastball in that look. He played the bulk of the season with Seattle’s top affiliate in Tacoma, working primarily as a long reliever. In 65 innings across 37 appearances (nine of which were starts), he managed a 5.12 ERA. Elías only posted a 19.8% strikeout percentage, though he limited walks to a 6.8% clip.
Outrighted off Seattle’s roster midseason, the veteran reached minor league free agency at year’s end. He’ll battle for a bullpen spot in the spring, with the Cubs lacking in left-handed depth. Brandon Hughes looks assured of one spot, but he’s the only southpaw reliever on the 40-man roster. Elías will battle for playing time with fellow non-roster invitee Eric Stout and, likely, another player or two whom the Cubs bring in this offseason.