When the Arizona Diamondbacks drafted Barret Loux with the sixth overall pick in the 2010 MLB amateur Draft, many said the move was aimed at saving money: Loux was projected to go later in the first round, and was reportedly willing to sign for a smaller bonus than any other promising prospect Arizona could have had in the sixth slot.

Unfortunately, Loux and the Diamondbacks parted ways with no agreement last month, after a thorough physical and MRI revealed risk factors in Loux‘s elbow and shoulder with which Arizona was not comfortable. Normally, failure to sign in situations like this would result in Loux being placed back into the draft pool next year. Because Arizona made a unilateral choice not to sign the 21 year-old, however, Major League Baseball allowed Loux to become a free agent as of Sep 1.

So far, Loux has worked out only for his hometown Houston Astros (he had been pitching for Texas A&M University before Arizona selected him), and has received no formal offers at all. This is understandable, given his injury history–he had bone chips removed from his elbow in 2009 and sat out part of his senior year in high school with shoulder soreness–and the Diamondbacks’ concerns about his future.

The fact remains, however, that Loux has no current injury issues to hold him back. He may yet reach his considerable potential, and given the polish he showed during his final year at Texas A&M, he could be big-league ready soon.



This is precisely the sort of risk the Chicago Cubs ought to embrace. Chicago, whose pitching staff was depleted by trades, injuries and mismanagement this season, needs to beef up its farm system if it hopes to return to contention in the near future. Loux is a perfect fit: He will sign for less than $3 million (or roughly one fourth of what the team shelled out for Jeff Samardzija four years ago), and by next spring could be ready to pitch at Class A Daytona, with upward mobility.

There are simple baseball economics in play here, as well. For Arizona, the $2 million or so they would have needed to commit to Loux would have been a major loss if he had not delivered as a big leaguer. For Chicago, though, $2.5 million is a relatively small investment–and anyway, if the team doesn’t sign Loux, that money will probably be used to ill-advisedly retain Koyie Hill and/or Jeff Baker.

Obviously, the team will need to perform its own medical evaluation before seriously considering Loux. His elbow issues seem minor and are likely in the past, but Arizona seemed very really concerned with what it saw in his shoulder. The downside risk of more money sunk into a failed pitching experiment must be weighed against the upside risk of shoring up the Cubs’ rotation in (especially) 2013, when the team will probably say goodbye to current studs Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano.

Loux features a fastball that sits between 91 and 94 miles per hour, and an excellent change-up. He complements these with a decent pair of breaking pitches, which would be the primary areas of needed improvement before he could break into the Cubs’ major-league rotation or bullpen. Perhaps most impressively, his command is already strong: 11.7 strikeouts and just 2.9 walks per nine innings with A&M in 2010.

His mechanics need to be adjusted for him to avoid the injuries the Diamondbacks foresaw. At present, his arm angle and motion look vaguely reminiscent of a young Kerry Wood, and he is too tight at the end of his delivery–not allowing his muscles to recoil and loosen naturally. If the Cubs can right these small flaws, however, they could have a diamond in the rough and a strong answer to questions about the back of their rotation in 2012 and beyond.

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