The Chicago Cubs made another roster move today, claiming lefty Jack Leathersich off of waivers from the New York Mets. The news was greeted by Mets fans with disappointment, so you can safely presume Leathersich is an interesting guy to add.
And, indeed, he is. The 25-year-old lefty relief prospect reached the big leagues this season after a steady ascension through the Mets’ minor league system, and after being mentioned periodically as one of the organization’s interesting, fringe-top-30-type prospects despite being a clear reliever.
How did he do it? Well, when you strike out 15.3(!!!) batters per 9 innings in the minor leagues, you’re going to get a whole lot of attention. And, when Leathersich reached the big leagues, he nearly kept it up for 11.2 innings, striking out 26.9% of the batters he faced (he did walk 13.5%, however, and that’s always been an issue).
He posted a 2.31 ERA and 2.79 FIP … and then underwent Tommy John surgery in late July.
So, the claim here is a reclamation play with considerable upside. Relievers tend to return a little more quickly than starters from Tommy John surgery, but you still shouldn’t expect to see Leathersich in the big leagues, if at all, until the second half of 2016. Because he was in the minor leagues when he went under the knife last year, by the way, he won’t accumulate big league service time while on the 60-day disabled list, which is an added bonus for the Cubs (though a bummer for Leathersich). Another bonus is that, since he’s rehabbing, he can be placed on that 60-day DL in March, clearing up a 40-man roster spot for the end of Spring Training if there are any tough decisions to be made in that regard. For the rest of the offseason, though, if the Cubs want to keep him, they’ll have to leave him on the 40-man roster, or will have to try and do what the Mets failed to do: sneak him through waivers.
And, if you’re wondering why this move and the Andury Acevedo signing are happening on top of each other, no, it’s not a coincidence. If you studied up on your offseason road map, you know that tomorrow is a big day: it’s the deadline to add players already in your organization to the 40-man roster for the purposes of protecting them from next month’s Rule 5 Draft. In short, if there’s a Rule 5-eligible player out there, and he’s not on a 40-man roster by the end of the day tomorrow, a team cannot protect him from being selected. So, then, the Cubs’ move to finalize their deal with Acevedo, and the Mets’ move to waive Leathersich to try and take him off the 40-man roster (presumably to open up a spot for a player they’re going to protect tomorrow), are not timing-coincidental.
I’ll have more on the deadline tomorrow, but I thought I’d give you a teaser now since these deals popped up today.
The Cubs’ 40-man roster now stands at 32. And here’s some video of Leathersich heading into the 2015 season, if you want to see how he looked: