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Is it time to DFA Duane Underwood Jr.?

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The righthander has talent, but has not succeeded at the big-league level.

Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

I don't usually like to play the "designate players for assignment" game. Some like to conflate frustration with good strategy, all-the-while intentionally (?) disregarding that Tyler Chatwood has generally been much better recently, despite his poor outing on Thursday. The DFA is often an admission that “this will never work.” When a player has negligible value, sometimes that is as much value as he is ever likely to have. With that as a preview, this is a look at potentially designating Duane Underwood Jr. for assignment.

Since Underwood (a 2012 second-round draft selection), has run out of option seasons, he can't be sent back to South Bend without repercussions. The easiest way to initiate the process would be a designation for assignment, which would give the Cubs a week to make their next move. As with the traditional DFA, the Cubs would have a week to trade, release, or run Underwood through waivers.

The goal wouldn't to be release. Underwood has been more erratic than terrible. If he would clear waivers, he could be hidden in South Bend as he tries to sort his command/control problems. His trade prospects would be minimal, likely hinging on a slightly-larger-than-the-waiver-fee offer. Sending him through waivers would also be a possibility, with now being an apt time to try.

Until Thursday, teams had a 30-man active roster. As of Thursday, the number on the parent club dropped to 28. As such, a team wanting to claim Underwood would need to put him on their 28-man roster, or run the gauntlet themselves. Hiding Underwood in the secondary site is no longer a viable option, whether for the Cubs or anyone else.

The question boils to this: Will Underwood ever be a viable MLB pitcher? I'm torn on this, myself. However, if the decision is that Underwood is who he has become, and won't improve, Adbert Alzolay would be a better use of a roster spot. If Underwood has reached the status of a Rule 5-type of player not living up to the value of a roster spot, the tough call might be warranted. Craig Kimbrel is taking the meaningless innings, for now. Is Underwood's role necessary, if it isn't getting important outs?

To vote against Underwood is a middle- to longer-term call, as the last week or so isn't the question. Whether or not he will have a useful role longer-term, is. Fortunately, off of his 2020 outings, it may be tough for another team to justify putting him in their MLB bullpen. He might clear waivers more easily with two less roster spots, and some ugly performances in 2020.

Poll

Is now the time to DFA Duane Underwood Jr.?

This poll is closed

  • 33%
    Yes. I've rarely seen much upside there.
    (139 votes)
  • 21%
    Yes. I've defended him before, but he seems to have backslid.
    (88 votes)
  • 14%
    No. He may still turn the corner.
    (58 votes)
  • 30%
    No. I'm not totally sold on him, but I'd wait a few weeks to DFA him.
    (124 votes)
  • 0%
    Other (Include in comments.)
    (3 votes)
412 votes total Vote Now

Even if another team unlocks value from him, if the Cubs aren't going to, the timing seems better than even last week. The smaller rosters require any team winning the roster claim to put him on a smaller roster than a few days ago. Most teams are near their limits in the 60 player pool and the 40 man roster. If claimed or traded, the Cubs empty one spot on both lists. If lost, and another team does salvage value, maybe that was beyond the Cubs scope.

As much as I've enjoyed Underwood through the years, it seems the time is near to decide on him. Despite pitching Kris Bryant's triple play, it may be time to move on from Underwood. He has less upside than Dillon Maples, which is why he'd be my choice to go. What's your opinion?