The deal is a minor league one, and may not even include an invite to big league Spring Training (the Cubs purportedly finalized their non-roster invites earlier in the week, though I’d be surprised if he’s not there). Let’s be frank: this isn’t a particularly big move.
But, at the same time, it’s always nice to squirrel away formerly-successful big league talent in the upper minor leagues, and that’s what Rowland-Smith is. In his mid-20s, Rowland-Smith was quite good with the Mariners. He had modest success as a 24-year-old reliever in 2007 (112 ERA+ and 42 K in 38.2 innings), and then a part-time starter in 2008 and 2009 (124 and 115 ERA+).
But something went terribly wrong in 2010 for the native Australian, and Rowland-Smith’s effectiveness fell off the map. After starting the season third in the M’s rotation behind a couple guys named Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee, Rowland-Smith was ousted from the rotation by mid-season (he was DL’d with the kind of back injury you associate with guys who are simply not pitching well enough to stay on the roster).
Last year, he was relegated to the Houston Astros’ AAA club, where he never even got a chance to crack the terrible Astros’ big league team. He had a 6.19 ERA and 1.643 WHIP in 104.2 innings, mostly as a starter, at AAA last year (which numbers actually aren’t as atrocious as they look for the PCL – not that I’m excusing them).
Small sample size caveats apply, but it looks to me like Rowland-Smith, who just turned 29, was highly effective back when he was a reliever, and then trailed off in effectiveness as a starter (indeed, his K rate was almost halved when starting). Perhaps a move back to the pen could see him find some renewed value.
In any event, the word here, as you may have already guessed, is depth.