A flurry of roster moves before tonight’s homestand opener …
For now, it looks like the Cubs have decided that Jose Veras was a bad gamble. To open up a spot in the bullpen for Hector Rondon, who is returning from paternity leave, the Cubs designated Veras for assignment, rather than merely optioning someone to AAA Iowa. It’s quite a statement about how poorly Veras has performed so far this year (though he’s done well recently in very low-leverage situations), and about how confident the Cubs are about trying to reclaim any value in him before July.
The Cubs will have 10 days to trade, release, or waive Veras. The guess here is that he’ll be waived, will clear waivers (he makes $4 million this year – $3.85 million salary, and a $150,000 option buyout that was likely coming), and then will be outrighted to Iowa.
He’ll have the choice to refuse and to elect free agency, but I believe that, if he does, he loses his contract (that’s the way I read the rule – CBA Article XX.D). That’s a lot of money that he wouldn’t likely make up in free agency, so I would think he would accept the assignment. In other words, you can expect Veras to head to Iowa at some point soon, and he could, in theory, return to the Cubs later on down the road. It’s also possible that the Cubs will simply let Veras go, but if they release him, they’re on the hook for the balance of his contract (minus the pro-rated portion of the big league minimum if he signs elsewhere).
UPDATE: After feverishly reading the CBA, and the many provisions that overlap in this area, that’s all off in Veras’s specific situation, because he’s got at least five years (not just three years) of service time. In his case, if he’s outrighted and assigned to Iowa, he can accept, elect free agency, OR refuse. If he elects FA, then he doesn’t get his contract. But he wouldn’t do that, because he can instead just refuse, and then the Cubs will have to decide whether to keep him on the big league club or release him. If they choose the latter, then he gets his contract, and the Cubs are on the hook for all of it (minus the pro-rated portion of the big league minimum if he signs elsewhere). OK. Whew. Rule lesson over, and Veras is likely gone.
As for the other roster moves, Veras’s 40-man roster spot will go to catcher Eli Whiteside, who is needed because Welington Castillo is dealing with rib inflammation, and is headed to the disabled list. Whiteside, 34, last played in the bigs in 2012, hitting .091/.214/.182 in extremely limited duty with the Giants. He’s hit .171/.235/.295 in 115 plate appearances at AAA Iowa this year, so John Baker is now the Cubs’ offensive catcher.
After the moves, the Cubs’ 40-man stands at 40.