By way of a procedural move, the Chicago Cubs have effectively announced that Phil Coke has made the team.
The announcement is this one:
#Cubs today selected the contract of LHP Phil Coke. The club’s 40-man roster now stands at 40 players.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) March 31, 2015
And it happened now because of this:
Source: #Cubs have informed Phil Coke that he has made team. He had opted out Friday night because they had not put him on roster.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) March 30, 2015
In short, veteran players who sign minor league deals – as Coke did with the Cubs – typically have the right to opt out of their deal before the season gets underway unless the team pays them a $100,000 retention bonus (and then there’s still another opt-out date later in the year). Knowing that Coke was their preferred first lefty option in the bullpen anyway at this point, the Cubs added Coke to the 40-man roster, converting his minor league deal to a big league deal.
Technically, it’s possible the Cubs could cut Coke before the season opens … but they’d be out the money they just guaranteed him by adding him to the 40-man roster. So, in other words, this is effectively the announcement that he’s made the team for Opening Day.
Coke, 32, will make $2.25 million, with a chance at another $900,000 in incentives tied to appearances. For his career, Coke sports a 4.16 ERA, a 3.71 FIP, and a 4.13 xFIP, but the latter two numbers improve to 3.01 and 3.33 against lefties. Indeed, he’s held them to a mere .287 wOBA, and struck them out at a 23.5% rate. Coke has walked just 6.6% of the lefties he’s faced. On the Spring, Coke has allowed no earned runs over 7.2 innings, with six strikeouts, two walks, and four hits.
This was expected for quite some time now, but the release of Felix Doubront this weekend opened up a 40-man spot for the Cubs to make it official.
Now we’ll see if the Cubs decide to carry a second lefty in the pen, whether Edwin Jackson being forced to the pen precludes that, and/or whether the Cubs carry an extra reliever in the early going because their roster machinations will allow it.