[I'm not saying I call all the minor moves the Cubs make - I make a lot of calls, and they make a lot of minor moves - but my batting average is become unsustainably high.]
Today, the Chicago Cubs claimed righty pitcher Liam Hendriks off of waivers from the Twins (per Patrick Mooney and LaVelle Neal).You’ll have to forgive the appearance of gushing at another minor Cubs move. I don’t gush at the gravity of the move (I call them “minor” for a reason), I gush only at the fact that, given the low risk involved, I’m happy to see the front office doing some things that make sense. If they don’t have the dollars to go all out on Shin-Soo Choo right now, they might as well be making savvy waiver and minor league moves.
Hendriks is another one of those moves, as I wrote earlier in the week:
An intriguing DFA target to monitor: 24-year-old Australian righty Liam Hendriks was just DFA’d by the Twins, who might look to trade him before putting him on waivers. His minor league peripherals are as fantastic as his big league numbers are bad. Thing is, all the usual “bad luck” indicators are there in spades for Hendriks in the bigs: enormous home run rate (after never giving up homers in the minors), ridiculously low LOB%, and a BABIP about 20 points higher than you’d expect it to be. Although Hendriks would require a 40-man roster spot, he does come with an extra option year left, meaning a team like the Cubs could put him at AAA and let him continue to develop (with another Hendricks) until a spot opens up. I really like him as a possibility.
Hendriks was the Twins’ minor league pitcher of the year in 2011, and was ranked as high as the third best prospect in the Twins’ system going into the 2012 season. In 2012, at age 23, he got a chance to break out with the big club, but, as discussed, he bombed (it didn’t help that he was rapidly yo-yo’d back to AAA). The real question is whether he won’t be able to get over the big league hump, or if he merely was bitten by some bad luck.
The only reason Hendriks was even available to be grabbed is because the Twins faced a roster and pitching crunch after signing both Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes, with plans to sign at least one more starter. They opted to go the big league free agency route, and no longer has space/time for Hendriks. It doesn’t sound like they were happy to potentially lose him.
The Twins’ loss is the Cubs’ gain, especially given that the Cubs can simply option him to AAA Iowa and let him start in the rotation there. Maybe he shows the organization why he was so well regarded as a prospect, why he put up such dominant numbers in the minors, and why, with better luck, he’s got a big league arm.
A lot of these waiver/minor league deal moves are simply about depth. This one is about upside. It’s a good risk to take, given that it costs only a 40-man spot (and the Cubs could waive Hendriks if they need that spot back at any time).
After adding Hendriks, the Cubs’ 40-man will stand at 38.