Today, Chicago Cubs manager Rick Renteria confirmed what we’d been guessing for a little while now: Japanese lefty Tsuyoshi Wada will start for the Cubs on Wednesday, effectively making him the fifth starter for now, following Kyle Hendricks.
Despite his advanced age (33) and limited upside (4th/5th starter, probably with a mix of great starts and clunkers), I really like the idea of giving Wada a long-term look this year. He’s never had a shot to pitch in the bigs, and his track record in Japan suggests he could be an effective starter in the medium (two to three year) range. He immediately had Tommy John surgery after coming to the Orioles two years ago from Japan, and is fully healthy. His numbers at AAA Iowa this year are fantastic – 2.77 ERA over 113.2 innings with 120 Ks and 28 BBs – and he looked like he could be a decent back-end guy in his one big league start this year, which came two weeks ago against the Reds.
Now then, let’s be clear about some things: we can’t read too much into that one start, other than to comment upon how his stuff looked (which I did, at length, here for those who missed it). We also can’t read too much into the AAA numbers of a long-time veteran starter who really, really knows what he’s doing when he pitches (and, thus, can dominated less experienced hitters). Further, we’re talking about a guy who we hope could possibly become an effective 4th/5th starter. Excitement is relative.
That all said, I’m (relatively) excited to see him get this look. Maybe Wada puts together another couple good starts, and the Cubs flip him for an interesting piece to a pitching-desperate team. Maybe Wada puts together a solid couple months, and the Cubs can retain him on the cheap – it’s not like he’s got a lot of big league service time – as a back-end or rotation-depth option in 2015.
The downside here is virtually non-existent, which, for me, adds to what I like about this. Wada came on a minor league deal, and the Cubs have had a chance to work with him now for months. They know what he can do, physically, and now they get a free crack at seeing how it translates in the bigs. If it doesn’t translate? Wada departs, and no one is worse for the wear.
We’ll see how he looks at Wrigley on Wednesday against the Padres.