The Chicago Cubs did manage to find a way to keep lefty Clayton Richard in the organization, but it came in a strange route, and includes an injury.
Richard, who has been a moderately successful fill-in starter for the Cubs this year, was designated for assignment earlier this week after the Cubs filled the fifth starter job externally (by acquiring tonight’s starter Dan Haren). Richard thereafter cleared waivers, elected free agency, and was re-signed by the Cubs to a new deal (Rogers, Gonzales, Mooney). If I had to guess, Richard got a little something extra and the Cubs may have built in some flexibility into his new deal.
Richard comes back to the big league roster, though, not just the 40-man. How, you ask? Well, Rafael Soriano is dealing with right shoulder inflammation, and has been placed on the disabled list. Thus, Richard is taking Soriano’s spot in the bullpen for now.
Close observers of Soriano since he arrived with the Cubs probably have mixed feelings about his disabled list stint. On the one hand, Soriano was supposed to be a late-inning piece for the Cubs on a nice low-risk contract, but, on the other hand, he never looked particularly impressive in any of his outings thus far. Through 5.2 innings with the team, Soriano posted a 6.35 ERA and a 6.80 FIP. We’ll see if the injury proves to be a long-term thing, in which case the Cubs will chalk the signing up to a low-risk gamble that didn’t pay off.
If it’s a shorter-term issue, and one from which Soriano could legitimately recover and improve over his prior performance, then we might see him back in the mix, say, when roster’s expand in September.
In the interim, it’s hard not to feel like the Cubs just upgraded the pen, incrementally, with this maneuvering. Of course, Richard’s only bad outing with the Cubs so far was the one time he was pressed into emergency relief when Jason Hammel went down after one inning with his hamstring injury. Perhaps now that he’s being more clearly considered a bullpen arm, Richard will be more effective. It was just one appearance, after all. And his three starts have been decent.
Something worth noting on Richard: the first time he faces a batter this year, they’re hitting just .222/.222/.370.
Couple that with … Dan Haren the third time through the order this year: .306/.345/.590. Kyle Hendricks the third time through the order this year: .318/.370/.491.
As the games get more and more important, it might be even nicer to have the depth (and types of arms) to pull starters after the second time through the order at the first sign of trouble no matter how early in the game.