The Cubs struck quickly in getting their top draft pick signed, agreeing this week to a $3.125-million bonus for college catcher Kyle Schwarber (left) in a deal to be announced today, according to sources. | AP file photo
Updated: June 11, 2014 10:18PM
PITTSBURGH — As promised, the Cubs quickly signed their top draft pick. The club announced Wednesday that power-hitting catcher Kyle Schwarber agreed to a below-slot $3.125 million.
After traveling to Chicago this week to finalize the deal, the fourth overall pick out of Indiana University left to report to short-season Class A Boise for the season opener Friday.
“That just goes to show you this guy wants to get out there and play,” said manager Rick Renteria, another former first-round pick. “That speaks more to who he is, his character and what he wants to start doing as far as his career is concerned.
“It’s important to get your feet wet and get acclimated to the professional game. The sooner the better. And it sounds like he’s raring and ready to go.”
The signing saved the Cubs roughly $1.5 million to apply to some of their tougher-to-sign picks selected in lower rounds.
Schwarber is the highest-selected player to sign.
No. 5 overall pick Nick Gordon signed with the Minnesota Twins earlier this week for the $3.851 million assigned to that slot.
With the consensus top three pitchers off the board, the Cubs worked on a below-slot strategy with their highest picks to try for greater impact in their draft depth. But team officials say that was only part of the benefit of selecting Schwarber, whom they call a potential middle-of-the-order hitter with leadership qualities they covet.
“We felt Kyle was the best hitter hands-down in this year’s draft,” said Jason McLeod, vice-president for scouting and player development. “We think it’s an impact bat from the left side certainly that we lack [in organizational depth].
“He was No. 2 on our draft list. We were enamored with [No. 1 overall pick/pitcher] Brady Aiken, but Kyle was No. 2.”
The 6-0, 235-pound Schwarber, 21, was a career .341 hitter at Indiana, hitting 40 home runs in 180 games over three seasons.
Entering play Wednesday night, Luis Valbuena is second only to Milwaukee’s Jonathan Lucroy in the National League with a .362 average over the last four weeks (since May 13). He’s second to Yasiel Puig in on-base percentage (.443) in that span.
◆ The Cubs extended their player-development agreement with Class AA Tennessee for four years, through 2018. Sources say Kris Bryant should be promoted to Class AAA by then.
◆ Leadoff man Emilio Bonifacio got his first day off since May 14, what Renteria called “a little breath” after 24 straight games (albeit, one off the bench). He’s hitting just .229 (8-for-35) this month with two walks (.270 OBP). Chris Coghlan led off for the first time as a Cub.
◆ Outfielder Ryan Sweeney (hamstring) fared well in his first injury rehab game for Class A Kane County, but Renteria said he’s “not necessarily close” to a return from the DL.