Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

chicago cubs logo featureThe Chicago Cubs today announced a trio of roster moves, which, at the end, will leave the Cubs’ 40-man roster at a full 40.

Having just recently acquired Brendan Ryan from the Yankees as the Player to Be Named Later in the Starlin Castro/Adam Warren deal, the Cubs are already prepared to let him go, releasing Ryan today. You’re wondering what’s up with that, and my best guess is that, in addition to roster-related maneuvering by both the Cubs and Yankees, dealing Ryan was one way for the Yankees to be parted with a $1 million obligation in a deal in which they were otherwise taking on all of Castro’s contract.

The Cubs, for their part, would have a little time to figure out what they wanted to do with respect to Ryan, but we said all along that he was no lock to remain on the roster through the winter. It’s possible his inclusion in the deal was always primarily about the money.

Ryan will now look for a minor league deal somewhere, and it’s conceivable he could get it from the Cubs, who are going to need some versatile infield depth at AAA. But, since he has no real connection to the Cubs other than this trade, I wouldn’t necessarily call them the favorite to retain him. If he signs with another team and then ultimately makes the big leagues, the Cubs will save a prorated portion of the big league minimum for the time he’s in the Majors, so that’s probably another reason for his inclusion in the original trade (as opposed to the Yankees just releasing him – this way, the Yankees save the full $1 million, and the Cubs might save a couple hundred grand from there).

The Cubs also announced that they’ve lost reliever Yoervis Medina on waivers to the Pirates – not where you wanted to see a previously-successful, still-young pitcher wind up. I won’t rehash the disappointment associated with the original Medina acquisition for Welington Castillo, as I got into it a bit when Medina was DFA’d last week. Medina was DFA’d to make room for Ryan.

So, instead of Ryan and Medina, whom are the Cubs adding? It’s former Cub – technically – Edgar Olmos. If the name sounds familiar, it’s not just its propensity for puns. Olmos was previously claimed off of waivers by the Cubs from the Mariners, but then was lost on waivers to the Orioles when the Cubs tried to slip him through waivers. Now, the Cubs have returned the favor as the Orioles apparently tried to do the same thing to stash Olmos at AAA. The Cubs may try to get Olmos through waivers once again before the offseason is through.

Why Olmos over Medina?

Well, it’s not entirely about the Cubs preferring Olmos to Medina, though that might be a part of the equation (you can read more on Olmos here). Instead, it looks like it may have been a timing issue – the Cubs had to take Ryan at a certain time, so they had to open up a 40-man spot. That decision came down to Medina, who didn’t make it through waivers. While that was going on, the Orioles signed Korean outfielder Hyun-Soo Kim, a deal which was made official today. It looks like Olmos was removed from the 40-man to make room for Kim, so the Medina waiver had probably already started before Olmos was made available again.

Even if there wasn’t a timing issue, you also have to factor in the likelihood that a guy can make it through waivers, since both pitchers are out of minor league options and neither looks likely to make the Cubs’ big league roster on Opening Day. Maybe Olmos is more likely to get through eventually, and thus he’s the better guy to have come late March.

I’m spitballin’ here a little bit, because we can’t quite know the precise timing of these things from our end. But my overall guess here is that the Cubs and Yankees set a date by which the Cubs had to take Ryan whether the Cubs really wanted Ryan or not (eventually, the Yankees were going to want that 40-man spot). The date came and the Cubs had to DFA someone to make room, and they chose Medina. Subsequently, Medina was waived, and was claimed by the Pirates (perhaps literally today). Subsequent to that (again, perhaps literally today), Olmos popped back up on the waiver wire, and the Cubs decided to drop Ryan to make room to pick back up Olmos.

Again, that’s just an educated guess on the timeline, but hopefully it at least offers a plausible explanation for what might have otherwise looked like a confusing and conflicting series of transactions.

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