The Cubs have been making a lot of moves at the margins here in the shadow of the 2016 MLB Draft, so we’re going to sit down, lay out and discuss a few of them right now.
Among the most notable bits, as reported by Ken Rosenthal on Twitter, the Cubs have signed former Mariner reliever Joel Peralta to a minor league deal. Peralta, 40, made his Major League debut with the Angels back in 2005 and has made his way around the league ever since. He pitched for the Dodgers in 2015, but they did not pick up his option this year, so to free agency he went. The Mariners, then, took a flyer on Peralta this season before ultimately releasing him after just 23.1 innings.
In his short time with the Mariners, Peralta struggled a fair amount, although in a fairly interesting manner. Across his 26 appearances, Peralta struck out 28 batters (28.0%), while walking just 7 (7.00%) – he faced exactly 100 batters, so that made the numbers pretty easy. Unfortunately – and despite those sterling percentages – Peralta left with a 5.40 ERA (5.53 FIP), having been worth -0.2 fWAR.
How? Well, at first blush it’s not easy to tell. Peralta has a fairly normal .290 BABIP and a high (or in his favor) strand rate (80.2%), but everything else looks quite a bit worse. His ground ball rate was just 23.1% and his home run to fly ball ratio was a staggering 20.0%. Given how often batters were putting the ball in the air against him, a HR/FB ratio that high will just sink you. But it’s easy to see what the Cubs like here and there’s nothing wrong with searching for a little extra depth. Peralta will head to Triple-A Iowa.
Also at Iowa, the Cubs have made a couple of corresponding moves, releasing right-handed relievers Jean Machi and Brandon Gomes, while promoting a couple of internal right-handed relievers, Corey Black and Miguel Mejia. Machi, 34, had a 3.68 ERA over 29.1 innings of work with Iowa this season, before being released (he was arrested for public intoxication and urination on Thursday, but the release was said to come before that incident – Tommy Birch). Gomes, 31, had a 3.97 ERA (6.08 FIP) over 22.2 innings for Iowa this year, but was walk far too many batters (14.6%) for comfort. Best of luck to both of them.
Black, 24, had been pitching well at Double-A Tennessee, prior to his promotion. In over 22.2 innings, he kept a 3.18 ERA, with a 3.36 FIP. He too has had issues with command this year, though (15.2% BB rate), so hopefully the coaching in Iowa can help straighten him out. Mejia’s promotion came on the strength of 13.1 strong innings in Tennessee to start the 2016 season. In his 8 appearances, Mejia kept a 2.70 ERA with an even lower 2.20 FIP. He struggled a bit earlier this year at AAA, though, but as extreme, extreme bullpen depth, this is what you get.
Although the Cubs just traded for Chris Coghlan, they actually traded him away before the season began for right-hander Aaron Brooks. Until now, Brooks had been out with a hip injury, but now he is finally making his way back to Iowa (on the very day the Cubs traded back for Coghlan, in fact. What are the odds?). Brooks, 26, is technically at Iowa on a rehab assignment, although he’s only ever pitched 2.2 innings in the majors back in 2014. In 2015, Brooks pitched well as a Minor League starter for both the Royals and Athletics, but really struggled in the big leagues: across nine starts and four relief appearances (55.1 IP), Brooks had a 6.67 ERA (4.85 FIP) with a low walk rate (5.6%) but a strikeout rate that does not inspire confidence (15.2%). Again, as far as AAA emergency depth goes, this is what they look like.
Joining Brooks on a rehab assignment in Iowa is Dallas Beeler. You may recall that Beeler, 26, was a starter for the AAA Cubs in 2015, but is reportedly pitching out of the bullpen, now. Across 110.2 AAA innings last season, Beeler had a 4.07 ERA and a 3.91 FIP. He did make a few starts for the Chicago Cubs, too, but they didn’t go too well. Hopefully, he can reignite his career as a dynamic (perhaps even multi-inning) reliever out of the pen.
Lastly, Pierce Johnson, one of the Cubs’ top pitching prospects, is expected to be back at Iowa on Monday, where he’ll return after pitching barely 15 innings there to start the year (thanks to being struck by a comebacker, and then suffering a lat injury). According to Iowa manager Marty Pevey, via Tommy Birch on Twitter, Johnson will be activated from the DL on Monday and start that day. Last season at Double-A Tennessee, Johnson started 16 games (95.0 IP), with just a 2.08 ERA (although a 3.47 FIP). He didn’t strike many batters out (18.8%) and walked a normal amount (8.4%) but the potential will always remain. First step though is to get back, get healthy and stay healthy for a long stretch of time.
So, there you have it. The Cubs have shaken up the Triple-A rotation and bullpen quite a bit.