This is what we discussed as the most likely option yesterday, and has now come to fruition.
With his rehab stint up after a recovery from 2013 Tommy John surgery, the Chicago Cubs today activated Kyuji Fujikawa from the 60-day disabled list. Needing a spot, then, on the 25-man and 40-man rosters, the Cubs elected to designate outfielder Nate Schierholtz for assignment.
One of the front office’s most successful “minor” pickups of the last few years, Schierholtz produced reasonably well for the Cubs in 2013 while make just over $2 million, though he did struggle down the stretch. That led to some speculation that the front office dropped the ball by not trading Schierholtz at the deadline last year, but, I’ve been told the offers for Schierholtz at the time were incredibly weak. Teams didn’t buy that he was really the guy he’d shown in the first half.
Unfortunately, time may have borne out those concerns, as Schierholtz struggled late in 2013, and, after being tendered and signed for $5 million, he never put it together in 2014.
The Cubs now have 10 days to trade, waive, or release Schierholtz. Given his struggles and salary, he’ll likely clear waivers (if not, the Cubs would likely let him go for nothing to the claiming team). Can the Cubs find a suitor that is willing to offer a little bit in salary relief? Maybe. Schierholtz does play good defense, and is suffering from a mere .228 BABIP this year. Bats are in high demand, and maybe a team sees some value in Schierholtz as a bench guy. We’ll see. Don’t get your hopes up too high.
Fujikawa, 34, was a top-notch reliever in Japan, and flashed that stuff early in 2013 after signing a two-year deal with the Cubs. He then snapped his UCL, had Tommy John surgery, and has been coming back ever since. We’ll see what he’s got left in the tank this year, and the Cubs will consider whether they want to bring him back in 2015 on a lesser deal. I’m actually fairly interested to see how he looks.
The bullpen is now back to the elevated eight, and there are five outfielders on the roster (Alcantara, Coghlin, Lake, Ruggiano, Sweeney).
Because the Cubs’ 40-man was at 40, Schierholtz’s spot now belongs to Fujikawa, but, if the Cubs are adding Jacob Turner – as is rumored – they’ll have to open up another spot (which might happen anyway if there’s a trade for Turner).