Recently, the Cubs designated Jen-Ho Tseng for assignment. The DFA is a baseball construct along the lines of Schrödinger’s Transaction. He’s on the team, but he’s not. He can’t play or practice with the team. The team has about a week to trade, release, or send the player though the options process. It becomes a bit of a punchline for players who get routinely DFAd. The Cubs are about to run a string of players through the designation process. This is about prioritizing them.
The Cubs 40-man roster is currently at 40+3, with Kendall Graveman, Addison Russell, and Oscar De La Cruz each being exempted. Graveman’s is due to injury, the other two are because of suspensions. When De La Cruz and Russell are added back to the 40 (presumably, they will be), the Cubs will have roster decisions to make. Taylor Davis seems a low-pain low-risk subtraction, even if he makes a couple days in Des Moines a bit precarious.
In addition to the broader 40-man roster concerns, Allen Webster can’t be directly returned to Iowa without going through waivers. If Brandon Morrow, Tony Barnette, Xavier Cedeno and Mike Montgomery are healthy within a few weeks, Webster’s spot with the organization becomes precarious. Many of the Cubs aren’t in danger of being purged. Some, however, could be. Leaving aside the primary players and prospects, as well as those returning from injury, here are eleven players that might get designated soon.
I’ll start with the elephant in the room. Chatwood has performed rather poorly as a Cub, and has a hefty pay rate this season and next season. With Jon Lester temporarily shelved, Chatwood is the logical and best fill-in for Lester’s spot. If Chatwood misfires in his attempt to fill Lester’s rotation spot, he could get the bounce. He could fit in rather well with a starting pitcher-starved organization at league minimum in a low-pressure environment.
A reserve bat-first catcher, Davis is one of two backstops at Triple-A Iowa. It’s doubtful anyone would claim Davis if waived. He represents the type the Cubs want to keep long-term in a post-playing career position. They want to “do right by him,” so he wishes to stay with the organization later. That said, Davis is likely the next player to be DFAd by the Cubs.
Among the favorite whipping boys of fans in spring training, by and large, Kintzler has been usable this season. While his guaranteed amount is for a shorter duration and lower rate than Chatwood, the guarantee is there. All things equal, Kintzler likely stays. How should we decide if all things are equal?
I somewhat hesitate to put Rosario on the list, but quite a few relievers appear rather similar. He’s leaned toward being a high-wire act reliever, with sensational escapes and a few rather memorable poorly located pitches. Rosario is probably less likely than a few on the list, but if five or six moves are needed, Rosario could be outside-looking-in.
Quite similar to Rosario in that both are lefty relievers, Ryan should be safe from the DFA wire. However, a few bad outings between now and then could change the tune rather quickly.
Duane Underwood Jr.
A 2012 Cubs draft selection, he appeared briefly with the parent club in 2018. As he’s currently in the I-Cubs rotation, his dismissal could be very inconvenient in the pipeline (He’s in Iowa’s rotation.). Nonetheless, he’s been a bit inconsistent. As with many on the list, he’s a tough call.
I doubt the team wants to designate him. He wouldn’t clear waivers. The “pro” side of calling him up in the first place seemed partly “If he isn’t ready now, when will he be?” He’s been perfectly useful, but might be lost to the club, regardless.
A bit invisible, in that he’s not familiar, he was modestly useful last season for the parent club. He’s been good in Iowa, in 2019, also. It’s a numbers game, and numbers might not be kind to Norwood’s status with the Cubs.
A bit like Norwood, he has another option season remaining, and is a leverage arm in Des Moines. I’m not sure that saves him.
A lefty with MLB experience, he’s a bit like Webster in that calling him up is less the problem than sending him back to Triple-A. He has options remaining, but with more than five years MLB experience, he could elect free agency if optioned.
He throws hard, and has a filthy slider. His fastball has a mind of its own. He would be claimed by a team with a spot on the 40. He will be an MLB leverage reliever, if he ever figures out command.
If I were to guess an order, I’d leave Chatwood on an island, depending on his next few outings. Beyond that, Davis would be atop my list. Underwood and Wick would be near the top of the rest. Kintzler’s next few outings will determine his status. Webster, regrettably, will likely be lost. Norwood is in the middle. Maples, Collins, Rosario, and Ryan appear safe, for now.
Of these DFA candidates, which would you send packing first?
This poll is closed
Extra point question: If the Cubs were forced into trading Webster, what scraps would they get in return? Even though they don’t want to lose him.