Cubs add four players to 40-man roster

CHICAGO The Chicago Cubs today selected the contracts of four players and added them to the 40-man roster: right-handed pitcher Trey McNutt from Double-A Tennessee, infielder Christian Villanueva from Single-A Daytona, infielder Logan Watkins from Tennessee and right-handed pitcher Robert Whitenack from Daytona.

Infielder Bryan LaHair has been designated for assignment, as he and the Cubs are pursuing an opportunity for LaHair with a club in Japan.  Additionally, right-handed pitcher Carlos Gutierrez cleared waivers and was assigned outright to Triple-A Iowa.

McNutt, 23, has gone 27-16 with a 3.45 ERA (128 ER/334.0 IP) in 95 appearances, including 70 starts, in four minor league seasons in the Cubs organization.  A 32nd round selection by the Cubs in the 2009 Draft, McNutt started the Single-A Midwest League All-Star Game in 2010, was a mid-season Double-A Southern League All-Star in 2011 and a 2011 Arizona Fall League rising star despite being hampered by blister and abdominal injuries in 2011 and 2012.

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound McNutt entered the 2012 season ranked as the fourth-best prospect in the Cubs system by Baseball America and went 9-8 with a 4.26 ERA (45 ER/95.0 IP) in 34 appearances, 17 starts, with Tennessee.  He finished the season strong by going 3-0 with a 1.20 ERA (2 ER/15.0 IP) in his final 10 appearances (all in relief) in August and September.  The Birmingham, Ala., native was a non-roster invitee to Cubs major league spring training each of the last two seasons.

Villanueva, 21, was acquired by the Cubs from the Rangers as part of the trade that sent Ryan Dempster to Texas last July 31.  The right-handed batter and thrower combined to bat .279 (128-for-459) with 24 doubles, one triple, 14 home runs, 68 RBI and 14 stolen bases between Daytona and Texas’ Single-A Myrtle Beach affiliate.  Villanueva turned in a .353 on-base percentage and a .427 slugging percentage, good for a .780 OPS.  He began his Cubs career by hitting a home run in each of his first two at-bats in his first game with Daytona.

The 5-foot-11, 165-pound Villanueva entered 2012 as the ninth-best prospect in the Rangers farm system.  He was a 2011 mid- and post-season All-Star in the South Atlantic League after finishing the year with a .278 batting average (130-for-467), 30 doubles, three triples, 17 homers, 32 stolen bases and 84 RBI in 126 games with Single-A Hickory.  The Guadalajara, Mexico native originally signed with the Rangers as a non-drafted free agent on August 17, 2008. 

Watkins, 23, was named Chicago’s 2012 Minor League Player of the Year after batting .281 (137-for-488) with 93 runs, 20 doubles, 11 triples, nine home runs and 52 RBI in 133 games for Tennessee.  He led the Southern League in runs scored, was second in triples and walks (76) and was fourth in on-base percentage (.383).  The left-handed hitter hit .352 (31-for-88) in June, a month in which he recorded a team-high 13-game hitting streak en route to earning Cubs Minor League Player of the Month honors.

The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Watkins owns a .285 batting average (493-for-1,728) with 67 doubles, 33 triples, 15 home runs, 170 RBI and a .372 on-base percentage in 475 career minor league games. He has drawn 225 walks compared to 341 strikeouts in 2,035 plate appearances.  The Wichita, Kan., native was originally selected in the 21st round of the 2008 Draft out of Goddard High School.  Watkins just completed participation in the Arizona Fall League.

Whitenack, who turns 24 today, returned to the mound in 2012 after undergoing Tommy John ligament replacement surgery in the summer of 2011.  The righthander began the 2011 season 7-0 with a 1.93 ERA (13 ER/60.2 IP) in 11 starts between Daytona and Tennessee, earning Southern League All-Star honors, before being sidelined due to injury.  Whitenack joined Daytona last May and went 1-6 with a 5.96 ERA (34 ER/51.1 IP) in 15 starts.

Originally selected by the Cubs in the eighth round of the 2009 Draft, Whitenack is 19-18 with a 4.13 ERA (142 ER/309.1 IP) in 69 appearances (65 starts) in four minor league seasons with the Cubs.  He became the first baseball player drafted out of SUNY Old Westbury.

A 2012 National League All-Star, LaHair batted .259 (88-for-340) with 16 home runs and 40 RBI in 130 games.  He originally signed with the Cubs as a minor league free agent on December 23, 2009 and has combined to bat .263 (105-for-399) with 18 home runs and 46 RBI in 150 games with the Cubs covering two seasons (2011-12).

Gutierrez, 26, was claimed off waivers by the Cubs from the Minnesota Twins on October 24.  He was originally selected by the Twins in the first round of the 2008 Draft and has gone 15-20 with a 4.11 ERA (154 ER/337.0 IP) in 136 appearances (32 starts) covering the last five seasons in the Twins minor league system.