indians logoThis is an unexpected, frustrating, and disconcerting turn.

The Cleveland Indians today claimed pitching prospect Robert Whitenack off of waivers from the Cubs. Whitenack, who is slowly coming back from Tommy John surgery in 2011, was recently DFA’d and waived to make room on the 40-man roster for Alberto Gonzalez, in the wake of Darwin Barney’s knee cut.

Digest that for a moment. Because Darwin Barney cut his knee in an exhibition game in Houston, and because the Cubs simply couldn’t go without journeyman Alberto Gonzalez (career OPS+: 61), they now lose a struggling, but promising, pitching prospect.

There were reasons to believe that Whitenack was in for a long recovery, of the kind that could smother his career before it really gets underway. He’s already almost two years removed from surgery, and his velocity this Spring was reportedly still in the mid-80s – a serious problem for him. The fact that the Cubs were even willing to DFA him just a few months after adding him to the 40-man roster is telling.

What happens now? Well, my understanding of baseball’s tortured roster rules is that when a player is waived following a designation for assignment, his waiver is irrevocable. That means, if he’s claimed by another team – as Whitenack has been – he’s gone. The Indians clearly thought Whitenack was worth a 40-man roster stash (though they can now waive him, try to sneak him through, and if no other team wants to put him on their 40-man roster, the Indians can then send him to the minors scot free).

Whatever the future for Whitenack and however unlikely his prognosis is for success, this really sucks.* Losing pitching prospects because of a knee boo-boo suffered in a fake game is maddening. Couple it with the fact that the Cubs could have called up, for example, Logan Watkins – who is already on the 40-man and, thus, already using an option year – rather than adding Gonzalez, and it’s beyond maddening.

*(Unless the front office simply thinks Whitenack is done, and was willing to cast him aside regardless of any roster machinations. That is, concededly, a possibility.)

  • Rian

    Can’t we just pull him back and call up Watkins, as you suggest?

    According to the rules:

    If a team claims a player off waivers and has a viable claim as described above, his current team (the “waiving team”) may choose one of the following options:

    (1) arrange a trade with the claiming team for that player within two business days of the claim; or

    (2) rescind the request and keep the player on its major league roster, effectively canceling the waiver; or

    (3) do nothing and allow the claiming team to assume the player’s existing contract, pay the waiving team a waiver fee, and place the player on its active major league roster.

    • Brett

      Those are revocable waivers. My understanding is that these were irrevocable waivers, which are different.

      • Rian

        In that case, poop.

        • Can’t think of a cool name

          You said poop.

    • Kyle

      Different kind of waivers.

      There are revocable waivers, which are used for the purposes of post-deadline trading.

      And there are irrevocable waivers, such as this one.

  • ETS

    Who says that Brett is a FO homer?

  • Kyle

    I love it when you talk like this. *swoon*

  • Clay

    Well that SUCKS!

  • AB

    Flaherty would have been nice to callup too

    • ETS

      Marwin Gonzales?

  • CJ

    Blame Epstein and Hoyer for not calling up watkins. Injuries happen. Digest that for a sec. Everyone deals with them. Epstein and Hoyer were obviously open to the risk of losing Whitenack by putting him at risk of being snatched up by another team. In the end of the day, its directly the FO’s fault, not Barney’s.

    • Brett

      No one anywhere is blaming Barney for anything.

      • HubbaBubba

        I blame Barney…stop running into walls@*#%@!!!!

  • Rebuilding

    On the bright side – with Whitenack gone Vogelbach moved up the BN prospect rankings

    • Brett

      Unsubtle dig?

      (If so, you’ll note that *even the Cubs* thought highly enough of Whitenack to put him on the 40-man roster in December. That’s when the BN list was crafted – December and January. It was only in March, when folks got to see him at Spring Training, that serious concerns developed.)

      • Rebuilding

        Oh, I was just kidding Brett. I thought Luke did a great job on his prospect list. We just ribbed him at the time that V was behing Whitenack

        • Brett

          Fair enough. Rib away.

  • Chad

    It will only suck if Whitenack ends up being a decent pitcher for the Indians or another MLB team. I hope he does, never want to see an injury end a career early, especially one that seemed so bright. My biggest concern was what Brett stated in his last sentence. Why not just bring up Watkins for 2 weeks? Seriously that wouldn’t have stunted him that much in his development at Iowa. Just a waste. Apparently the cubs aren’t the only people taking risks on TJ recoverees.

  • ETS

    Well played.

  • preacherman86

    let’s all take a step back…does it suck? yes, but a guy two years removed from a surgery still fighting to hit mid 80’s, if they stash him on the 40 man, kudos, but i doubt they can…Brett, if they waive him could the cubs reclaim him? and dfa say, A. Gonzalez? just a thought.

    • Brett

      The answer to your question is yes.

  • Chad

    Also, I doubt Theo &Co thought if he did get taken it would be that big of a loss. They know more than us. My guess, unfortunately, is that we won’t hear from Whitenack again.

  • gocatsgo2003

    Seems like a case where the FO thought he wouldn’t be part of their long-term plans and elected to carry Gonzalez on the 40-man for this year, opening a spot after the 2013 season when PLENTY of guys may have to be added for one reason or another: Javier Baez, Jae-Hoon Ha, etc.

  • Rebuilding

    Yeah, I doubt anyone loses any sleep over losing Whitenack. But the prospect game is all about probabilities and up until his surgery he had shown some upside. Coupled with the fact that the situation was avoidable and it does suck. Maybe the FO knows his arm is shot, although he’s awfully young to give up on

  • DarthHater

    If the Indians try to sneak him through waivers and Barney is back by that time, could the Cubs re-claim him? Or do the rules prohibit that?

    • Brett

      Yes, they could.

  • mak

    Its unfortunate to the extent that the Cubs lack pitching prospects so much that this is a loss. I’m surprised the Indians have room for him, and I hope that if they try to sneak him back on waivers, the Cubs reclaim him.

  • Noah

    Meh. I was never a Whitenack fan. Even pre the bad spring training he wouldn’t have been on my Cubs’ top 20 prospects, and, for example, I like Ben Wells much better. I feel like a lot of people aren’t taking a real look at Whitenack’s stats and mostly just focusing on 23 dominating innings to start 2011 in Daytona. Then he went Tennessee, the Ks dropped hugely, the walks spiked some, and he had a massive left on base percentage. I just really don’t find pitching prospects who don’t strike people out to be interesting or likely to succeed in the Majors. I was more annoyed last year by not protecting Flaherty and Gonzalez for the Rule 5 draft, both of whom I liked.

  • hansman1982

    “Losing pitching prospects because of a knee boo-boo suffered in a fake game is maddening.”

    Well, we lost this one because of him struggling to come back from TJ sugery and regain a MLB fastball.

  • BWA

    I’ll just say that I’m quite sure the FO knows they could have called up Watkins, and thus has decided that they don’t have much in Whitenack anymore.

  • BluBlud

    I think Theo just gave Whitenack away. No need to be upset with him over this move. I was a Whitenack fan, but he is not a guy who is going to make or break a franchise. I sure when he DFA’d him, he knew he would be claimed and probably hasn’t lost much sleep over it.

  • MikeW

    This is EXACTLY why we should just hauled up Watkins for 2 weeks. I said this days ago.

    • BluBlud

      I agree, but Letting Whitenack take up a raster spot was not something we needed to do. I think Watkins should have gotten the call though. Mabe he could even play some third. He can’t be much any worse then LilliFlower.

  • HateDemp

    Any way to blame dempster for this?

    • DarthHater

      Sure. If Dempster hadn’t vetoed the trade to Atlanta, Delgado would be in the Cubs starting rotation and, with the different rotation, the Cubs would probably have had a right-hander on the mound, instead of T. Wood. The ball on which Barney was injured, therefore, would have been fouled off in a different direction and Barney would not have run into the wall pursuing it. With Barney not getting injured, Whitenack would not have been waived. So it’s all Dempster’s fault, really.

      Six Degrees of Blaming Dempster – an exciting new game brought to you by Milton Bradley! 😛

      • Tommy

        Come on guy – Cubs are winning the World Series this year anyways. We’re on pace for a 162-0 season.

        • DarthHater

          Well, if that happens, then Dempster should get the credit! Fair is fair. 😀

          • Tommy

            Can’t argue with that logic.

      • whiteflag

        I’m impressed. I detest the blame Dempster game, though.

  • preacherman86

    maybe this is a backhanded way of being excited about the state of the system? If this guy had little enough upside to be unseated by alberto gonzalez then maybe we can cheer the new state of prospective pitching depth as having outgrown these types of prospects. (extremely slowly rehabbing prospects who haven’t shown the ability to pitch at a high level since) a la dillon maples a week or two ago. Also to say he was more expendable than matt szczur is a testament to that. Nobody can stash Szczur at this point with where his development is! Also it is a testament to the Cubs thoughts on Vitters, how can this guy not fill in for two weeks at third and slide valbuena to second when Gonzalez number would have been called? yeesh, Vitters must be not exciting in the prospects eye of the FO!! mild excitement for me that our system and farm is at the point that these types become expendable makes me slightly happy, though sorry to see a former legit prospect head east up the cuyahoga!

    • Kenster

      Vitters is injured or was injured needs time to get his swing back if they even thought of bringing him up for a couple weeks

      • preacherman86

        Actually, Vitters has been in game action since mid march, so really doesn’t have that excuse goin for him. Same amount of time Castro had and the amount of time Dale said would be ideal for Stewart to have if he were to start at third on opening day. think it may be more of a testament to vitters current place in the organization.

  • Coldneck

    I’m not really than concerned about this. I got to think the front office is aware of the rules and knew that it was likely Whitenack would get claimed. They were at least willing to take the chance which is all I need to know. No reason to freak out.

  • justinjabs

    You said “Absolutely”


    Oh well.

  • #1lahairfan

    This sucks.

  • CubsFanBob

    I feel there is a lot of over reacting going on here. All the forum GM’s are under estimating our FO if they believe they would to lose a player by mistake.

    FO must believe it was worth the risk to lose Whitenack to have a more experienced veteran presence in Gonzalez over a young unproven AA star in Watkins even if only for a few weeks.

    Dont get me wrong I would love to be seeing the young Watkins playing his first major league game tonight in 30 degree temps going up against a lhp that has usually dominates in April but I get it that Gonzalez is a safer bet to produce more in these first two weeks. Hopefully Gonzalez does something positive to give the Cub’s a win tonight and hopefully Watkins does his job well enough in triple A that we see him in the majors soon.

  • TC

    I just don’t care. Dude’s thrown maybe 50 innings of semi-impressive baseball in his life, only 27 of which did he strikeout people at an above average rate. Might he have been an adequate 5th starter for a year down the road? Yeah definitely is possible, but the lack of velocity and prior results means I’m firmly on the “he’s done/was never worth much to begin with” side.

  • another JP

    Let’s see here– The Indians leave their 2009 rookie pitcher of the year Hector Rondon exposed for us to claim in Rule 5 and decides to take Whitenack in return? OK with me… neither one is an ace or anything but Rondon is definitely in a position to help us now where Whitenack was at least two years away.

    • gocatsgo2003

      I would count that as a “win” for the Cubbies, mostly given the relative health of the two players — Rondon showed enough life in his arm after TJ rehab to make the bullpen out of spring training while Whitenack was struggling to sit in the mid-80s two years removed from TJ surgery. Nobody has ever really questioned that Rondon has some “stuff,” it has always simply been a health issue. Especially given that he is sitting in their bullpen, the Cubs seem convinced that he’s at least mostly healthy (if possible that his development as a starter is somewhat more unlikely).

  • hogie

    I think you are making too big of an issue over the fact that it happened in an exhibition game. If it happened on the last day of spring training would we be so upset about it?

    I do, however, think that you are spot on with Watkins. Even if he came up and lit it up, Barney’s gold glove has won him enough credit to push a prospect back to AAA. It would only be a few weeks, and you just say that you have liked what you have seen, but he needs more time to develop. On the other side, even if he flops completely, no one is going to scream that we should have kept Gonzalez.

    But then again, I’m not crushed over the loss of Whitenack either.

  • cubfanincardinalland

    Do you really think Whitenack was going to be a big league ball player at this point in his career? I’m 57, and I can still throw 83 mph, do I have a shot?

    • DarthHater

      Sure, but be prepared to get flipped in July. 😉

      • cubfanincardinalland

        As long as it is for Olt, I’m good with it.