After more than a month of, presumably, trying to work a trade that would open up a 40-man roster spot for not-so-recently-signed free agent pitcher Carlos Villanueva, the Cubs bit the bullet today and designated pitcher Lendy Castillo for assignment (as I guessed they might earlier this week). With that, Villanueva’s reported two-year, $10 million deal with the Cubs is now official. Given the depth of starting pitchers on the roster, Villanueva is tentatively expected to open the season in the bullpen, in something of a swing role.
The Cubs will now have 10 days to trade, release, or waive Castillo. I suspect they’ll go the latter route, and try to sneak him through waivers. The choice of Castillo as the DFA probably had as much to do with the Cubs’ belief that no other team would be willing to stash him on their 40-man as it does with the Cubs’ lack of interest in keeping Castillo. After going to great lengths to keep Castillo last year after selecting him in the Rule 5 Draft, I’m sure the Cubs would prefer not to lose him now for nothing.
Castillo, 23, didn’t pitch well for the Cubs last year (7.78 ERA, 2.250 WHIP) before coming down with a back, er, groin, or whatever strain midseason. But he’s still quite young in pitching years, having not pitched above A-ball before last year, and having only been converted into a starting pitcher in 2010.
Now the Cubs will set about opening up a spot on the roster, which stands unofficially at 41, for outfielder Scott Hairston.