About 12 hours later, it came to fruition.
“Yes sir, we got him,” Wilken said Thursday from the Winter Meetings in Nashville.
Chicago worked out a pre-draft trade agreement with Tampa Bay, who selected pitcher Tim Lahey with the first overall pick in Thursday’s Rule Five Draft and then dealt the right-hander to the Cubs in exchange for cash considerations.
Lahey was selected in the First-Year Player Draft by Minnesota in 2004 – as a catcher. He converted to pitcher after one season in the Appalachian League.
“There have been some pretty famous alumni of catchers that have converted into pitchers,” noted Wilken. “You have Pete Vukovich, Mike Moore, Dave Lemanczyk, and Tim Crabtree. There are a fair amount of guys that converted behind the plate and turned out to be pretty good on the mound.”
The Cubs are hoping Lahey is the next one.
The 25-year-old appeared in 50 games this past season with Double-A New Britain of the Eastern League, going 8-4 with 13 saves and a 3.45 ERA.
He struck out 59 and walked 35 this season.
Ironically, the one player the Cubs lost in the Rule Five Draft (the major league phase anyway) was also drafted as a catcher and then quickly converted to pitcher: right-hander Randy Wells, who was selected by Toronto Thursday.
What did the Cubs see in Lahey that they didn’t see in Wells?
“He’s anywhere from 90 to 95 with a pretty good slider, decent changeup,” Wilken said of Lahey. “He’s only been pitching for two years. He’s supposed to have a pretty good sinker. He pitched pretty well in Double-A for a guy that was only in his second full year. He’s a good-sized guy (6-foot-5, 250 pounds).
“Hopefully, we can keep him.”
The Cubs will have to, or else offer Lehay back to Tampa Bay for $25,000 if he clears waivers, per Major League Baseball rules.
Lahey will be looking to break into a Cubs bullpen that currently features RHPs Ryan Dempster, Kerry Wood, Bob Howry, Carlos Marmol, Michael Wuertz and Kevin Hart, in addition to veteran left-handed specialist Scott Eyre.
Most everyone likely assumes that Lahey’s role with the Cubs will be in long relief, but Wilken said he could envision him in a setup role as well.
He also said the Cubs weren’t concerned with Lahey’s lack of experience above Double-A. Lahey made only two appearances with Minnesota's Triple-A club.
“It basically did not (concern us),” said Wilken. “There’s been a lot of guys in the history of this game that jumped from Double-A to the major leagues.”