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David Rollins Clears Waivers, Stays With Cubs

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The sort-of-well-traveled lefthander’s journey is at an end. For now.

Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

David Rollins, designated for assignment last week when the Cubs traded for Alec Mills, will be staying with the team after all:

This ends a “journey” (during which Rollins never left his home in Texas) in which he was involved in five waiver transactions in a five-week period. Via Rollins’ baseball-reference page:

Mariners, to Cubs, to Rangers, to Phillies, to Rangers, to Cubs.

Lest you think this is funny (well, it is, kind of), it can really mess with a guy’s life — even though he never had to actually report to any of these cities. At Yahoo, Mark Townsend points out various issues Rollins had to deal with:

As ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports, he was just starting to feel comfortable that his second stint — this winter — with the Cubs might last. He even made the 1,500-mile drive from his home in Texas to the Cubs’ spring training facility in Arizona hoping and perhaps even expecting to compete for a spot on their opening day roster.

Then the phone rang with the news he’s heard all too often this winter. Now the process starts over again as he awaits the next phone call

“To me, it sucks,” Rollins told Crasnick this week. “At the end of the day, it’s a business. I get it. But I’m still a human. I keep thinking, ‘Teams like me enough to pick me up, but nobody wants to take a chance on me.’ It’ll play games with your head, that’s for sure.”

This actually is an important issue and GMs are aware of it, according to the Crasnick article:

"On the surface, it's not ideal," said Texas general manager Jon Daniels, who has placed two waiver claims on Rollins this winter. "You feel for the person. Guys have families and kids, and this is definitely an area of the system that doesn't really contemplate the real-life effects. It's not just a paper game. People's homes and lives and families are affected.

"We've discussed putting restrictions on it at the GM meetings. It's been brought up before. But when we've tried to put a rule in place, we've never found one that makes sense. Waivers are designed in part to benefit the player. It gives them an opportunity to stay on a 40-man roster and stay in big league camp. I'm sure it's been a crazy couple of months for David, but I'm not really sure what the solution is."

If this isn’t addressed by GMs before the next collective-bargaining agreement, you can be sure the Players Association will address this topic. Rollins isn’t the only player who’s been run through this maze — Crasnick’s article mentions several others, including former Cub Gonzalez Germen. It happened a couple of winters ago to Liam Hendriks, who was also briefly a Cub. Hendriks came out of it all right; he’s been a decent middle reliever the last two seasons, 2015 in Toronto, 2016 in Oakland.

Rollins has talent — he had excellent BB/9 ratios in Triple-A in 2015 and 2016 — but struggled at the big-league level with the Mariners. As a lefthander who just turned 27, he still might be able to help a big-league team. For the Cubs, he’s roster depth, with almost no chance of making the 25-man Opening Day roster. They obviously liked him enough to claim him not once, but twice, this winter on waivers.

Presuming he didn’t leave Arizona after the DFA last week, Rollins won’t have to travel again in order to take part in Cubs camp beginning Wednesday. And with lots of spring games and an extended spring season due to the World Baseball Classic, he’ll probably get some innings in big-league spring games, at least in the first couple of weeks. He’ll have lots of company, too. There will be 39 pitchers in camp (24 on the 40-man roster, 15 non-roster invitees).