The Chicago Cubs today picked up righty reliever Anthony Varvaro off of waivers from the Boston Red Sox, and designated lefty Joe Ortiz for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster.
Varvaro, 30, came to the Red Sox in a trade from the Braves back in December. (Fun fact on the return? It was cash and minor league pitcher Aaron Kurcz, whom you may recall was part of the compensation the Cubs sent to the Red Sox for Theo Epstein.)
With the Braves, Varvaro was a very good reliever each of the last two years, posting sub-3 ERAs and sub-3.50 FIPs over 128 innings in that span. With the Red Sox this year, Varvaro’s strikeout rate shrank from 22.9% last year to just 15.7%. His walk rate climbed from 6.0% to 11.8%. It was a small sample (11.0 innings), but the Red Sox cut bait in favor of other bullpen options. Varvaro’s velocity was down about 2 mph in the early going, for what that’s worth.
I believe Varvaro has no minor league options remaining, so I would think the Cubs would have to immediately outright him (another waiver process) if they weren’t going to add him to the 25-man roster. It’s possible, then, that we see Varvaro in the Cubs’ bullpen soon, or we see a second procedural move. I could be missing something, though.
As for Ortiz, the 24-year-old lefty remains an interesting LOOGY type, whom the Cubs may waive and hope to get through waivers. Given the Cubs’ needs in the bullpen – and proliferation of lefty options – it’s not surprising to see the Cubs effectively swap out the lefty for a righty. Ortiz had mixed numbers in 10.2 innings at AAA Iowa.