Time frames are an interesting aspect of life. If you ask some people, next Friday is a long-term plan. For others, three years from now is mid-range. Baseball decisions are a bit of a blend. A team/organization needs to balance short- with long-term goals. This series will be about assessing the emotion/logic of retaining certain players past the non-tender deadline, which seems a MLB mid-range decision. Today is Alec Mills' turn.
The non-tender deadline comes around in November, between the end of the World Series and the Rule 5 draft. This is a point where teams decide which players are worth an offseason 40-man roster spot, and which ones aren’t. The deadline last cycle was somewhat controversial, with Addison Russell being retained. The Cubs have a few players who are using their final minor-league option season this time around. Among those is Mills.
Added in a February 2017 trade for the since-reacquired Donnie Dewees, Mills has tossed in the range of 30 innings for the Cubs in his time with the parent club. Aside from that, he’s provided valuable frames for the Triple-A affiliate in Iowa. Four of his nine Chicago appearances have been as a starting pitcher. He’s been mildly above replacement level in both campaigns with the Cubs. Still well short of the one-year of MLB service mark, Mills would make league minimum next season.
The hiccup would be, he would take up a 40-man roster spot through the offseason, but would not be easily “returned to Iowa” if circumstances request it. He could, however, be designated for assignment. As such, the Cubs would be able to keep him if he is unclaimed. An added nugget to digest is that he probably has very limited trade value. On the mound, Mills is a “very low 90’s type” on the radar gun.
My hunch is that the Cubs will want to keep Mills around. He could effectively fill the multi-inning reliever spot. Or, he could if he doesn’t get too exposed before that happens. Mills provides more than it appears he does in the pipeline, as the Triple-A affiliate needs pitchers who can record outs, as well. Mills probably wouldn’t bring anything of note in trade, but might be able to be gotten through waivers in January or February.
What’s your hunch regarding Mills? Do you see the Cubs retaining him, or deciding to go a different direction? As much as the Cubs have “coming off the books” this off-season, I’ve heard far more than that being spent next season, from second base to right field, or with this pitcher or that. At some point, for the Cubs to be a consistent and viable foe every October for the Dodgers in the National League, they have to locate some internal, low-cost pitching options. Otherwise, the Dodgers will continue to churn, as they develop their own talent. Is Mills worth keeping around through December on the 40? There are plenty of other similar decisions to discuss in the near future.