The Cubs just made a decisive move in the bullpen, designating righty Alberto Cabrera for assignment to make room for previously-cut-from-big-league-camp righty Brian Schlitter on both the 25-man and 40-man rosters.
Cabrera, 25, has been in the Cubs’ system for nearly a decade, and was very good as a starter at AA last year, but struggled out of the pen when he was brought up to AAA. He had a mixed Spring Training out of the pen, at times looking great, and at times getting hit hard. The Cubs apparently decided that they could risk losing him at this point. Given the struggles, it’s possible they won’t lose him at all.
Having been designated for assignment, the Cubs have 10 days to trade, waive, or release Cabrera. Maybe they try to swing a prospect trade involving Cabrera (if I’m remembering my obscure roster rules correctly, Cabrera can be traded and outrighted by the receiving team without having to expose him to waivers), though I wouldn’t expect the return to be much. Cabrera is a fringy guy at this point.
If there’s no trade to be had, the Cubs could, and likely would, waive Cabrera. If he clears waivers – I’d say it’s a 50/50 proposition – the Cubs could outright him off of the 40-man roster, and send him to AAA Iowa. If the Cubs wind up losing Cabrera for nothing, there will be some teeth-gnashing around the interwebz. I’ll be disappointed, because there’s a great potential arm there; but this time of year is lousy with Cabrera-like guys being placed on waivers because of roster crunches and option situations. The Cubs might find some other team’s Cabrera that they like better in the next few days.
As for Schlitter, I actually kinda like this move. Despite most fans not having heard much about Schlitter, 28, he’s actually been quite good for a long time in the Cubs’ system – he just hasn’t been healthy. Shortly after making his big league debut back in 2010 with the Cubs, he was placed on the DL with a shoulder issue. Then he missed all of 2011 with an elbow injury. After returning in 2012, he was pretty great in the minors the last two years, mostly pitching at the back of the bullpen at AA and AAA. He had a K rate near 9 per 9, and his ERA was solidly below 3. He is legitimately worth a look at this point in his career (and he’s got great hair, to boot). Schlitter’s story is just the kind of one you hear all the time about a guy who comes out of nowhere in his late-20s and is a decent middle reliever. He’s not going to change the course of the Cubs’ future or anything, but he could be a nice bullpen piece this year in the early going, and maybe for longer than that.
On the balance, Cabrera’s a guy you like to be able to keep because of the long-term hope, but Schlitter probably makes the bullpen better on Monday. Given the Cubs’ increasing depth, I can’t say that was the wrong decision.
Now we’ll see if, as expected, Justin Grimm and Hector Rondon get the last two spots in the bullpen, thus finalizing the roster.