Because of his service time and because he was designated for assignment earlier this week, the fact that he was successfully optioned to Iowa means that he passed through waivers unclaimed, and he thereafter agreed to be optioned to Iowa. That potentially suggests that he’s still under consideration to fill the Cubs’ fifth starter role (currently unannounced) early next week, which would explain why he accepted the option.
In any case, the procedural maneuvering here is good news for the Cubs, whose back-end depth in the rotation has been dicey for a while. Richard is not a world-beater, but he’s an adequate depth option, and the Cubs need him around at least until they pick up another starter (or two). It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him make one more start with the big league team before July 31, potentially against the Rockies on Monday.*
*(I should mention the normal 10-day waiting rule – typically, a player optioned to the minors cannot be recalled until 10 days after he’s optioned. That may apply here in Richard’s case, though I vaguely recall an exception for a guy who cleared waivers and then accepted the option (because every team had a crack at him, the potential for shenanigans is reduced to almost zero). This is a really unique situation, so I could be mistaken. If so, Dallas Beeler might be the fifth starter – because he definitely does qualify for an exception to being called back up prior to 10 days (he was the 26th man for the doubleheader, and those guys can be recalled prior to 10 days).)