Yesterday, the Chicago Cubs severed ties with reliever Jose Veras, one of the more prominent free agent acquisitions of the offseason. From day one, Veras battled serious command issues, and never quite got on track. It wasn’t two weeks before he lost his pre-ordained closer job, and, after more struggles and a DL stint, he succeeded a bit after coming back. Unfortunately, by then, it was too little too late for the Cubs.
Cubs GM Jed Hoyer explained the decision to designate Veras for assignment, rather than merely option a young arm back to AAA Iowa (Cubs.com): “For us, when we sat down and made the decision, ultimately we have a lot of young guys playing well and competing well in important leverage situations. We want to stick with those guys right now.”
Each of Hector Rondon, Neil Ramirez, Justin Grimm, and Brian Schlitter could, to varying degrees, fit that description, and I can understand the Cubs wanting to keep them rolling right now. From there, the Cubs weren’t going to drop Carlos Villanueva, Pedro Strop, Wesley Wright, or James Russell right now, so there was only one choice. (Throw in Zac Rosscup and Kyuji Fujikawa soon returning from the DL, Blake Parker dominating at AAA, Arodys Vizcaino and Armando Rivero coming fast … something like this was going to have to happen sooner or later.)
As Rick Renteria pointed out to ESPN, making this decision also sends a good message to the bullpen’s young guys: you pitched well, and you deserve to have these jobs. The decision, then, was the height of a baseball meritocracy.
A cynic would say that the Cubs framing the Veras DFA as the product of too many good young arms (that the front office acquired) emerging is a way of avoiding an admission that they’d made a $4 million mistake. I think there’s probably a little something there, but, in reality, it’s true: there are too many other good, young arms available right now for the Cubs to be devoting innings to Veras.
So, let me be clear, and with no cynicism: good on the Cubs for deciding that, particularly with an eight-man pen already, they weren’t going to keep giving innings to a veteran who wasn’t going to factor into any future plans. Too often you see team sticking with a guy solely because he’s a veteran who has been signed to a notable contract. In DFA’ing Veras, the Cubs acknowledged that the 33-year-old reliever was not likely to factor into their future plans, either by way of his 2015 option, or by way of a midseason trade for value. They cut bait, even at the expense of admitting that the signing didn’t work out.
As for Veras, hopefully he lands with a team that can use him, and he rights the ship. The Cubs have 10 days to try and trade Veras, because it’s pretty inconceivable that a team would claim him – and the $2.8ish million he’s still owed – off of waivers. In a trade, the Cubs would have to pick up virtually all of that remaining salary, but it’s plausible that a team would like to take a crack at him before he hits the open market, and can sign with any team for a prorated portion of the Major League minimum. The Cubs’ return would be almost nothing, mind you, so don’t get too excited – perhaps a little bit of cost savings, or a PTBNL-type organizational player.
In all likelihood, Veras will be waived, will go unclaimed, and then will be released (unless he decides he wants to accept a minor league assignment, which seems very unlikely, given the Cubs’ bullpen depth). He’ll latch on with another organization, probably on a minor league deal, and will work his way back to the majors. At that point, the Cubs will save the prorated portion of the Major League minimum (a couple hundred grand by then) on Veras’s deal.