Earlier this afternoon, Tommy Birch heard that the Chicago Cubs might be getting some bullpen help tonight, from the Iowa iteration of the team. Later, he completed his detective work by noticing that two I-Cubs relievers were mysteriously (okay, not that mysteriously) missing in action:
— Tommy Birch (@TommyBirch) June 21, 2016
Patton also not here.
— Tommy Birch (@TommyBirch) June 21, 2016
Despite those rumors, there hadn’t been word on what an accompanying move might look like. Well, as it turns out, there isn’t one accompanying move, but two (and they’re kind of surprising):
Richard to DL (blister). Warren optioned to AAA to get him stretched for a spot start.
— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubCub) June 21, 2016
Patton recalled, Concepcion up
— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) June 21, 2016
Well that’s a lot to unpack. In short, the Chicago Cubs are:
- Sending lefty reliever Clayton Richard to the Disabled List with a blister
- Sending righty reliever Adam Warren to Iowa to stretch out as a starter
- Recalling righty reliever Spencer Patton from Iowa to bolster the bullpen
- Calling up lefty reliever Gerardo Concepion to make his Major League debut
So, Richard heads to the disabled list and Concepion will make his debut out of the pen in Chicago. At the same time, Warren heads to the Minor Leagues to be stretched out as a starter, while Patton comes back up to back-fill his spot in the pen.
(UPDATE I) Let’s start with the most interesting component to all of this, which is Adam Warren heading to Triple-A Iowa. As you may recall, Warren has been used as a starter in the past (with the Yankees) and had been expected to start with the Cubs in the future. Given the full-ness of the Cubs rotation this year, though, those starts weren’t expected to come until 2017 – unless there was some unexpected injury or ineffectiveness. Well, apparently, there was at least one other way he could grab a start without either of those two things happening, and Sahadev Sharma has the scoop:
Stretching out in Iowa, at least one start in big leagues before break because of long stretch of games. https://t.co/kGmnBo0zm8
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) June 21, 2016
Starting tonight, the Cubs are playing in 20 straight games without a day off, heading into the All-Star break. Counting yesterday’s game and the Pirates series that’s 24 games in a row. So, if Warren can stretch out a bit and make a spot start, giving everybody at least one extra day of rest, that could go a long way. As a reliever in Chicago, Warren’s line wasn’t great: 4.56 ERA/5.38 FIP/5.29 xFIP. As a starter last season with the Yankees, though, Warren had a 3.66 ERA, while holding batters to a .243/.311/.352 slash line. Even still, for 2016, this is likely a temporary move. I’d expect to see him back in the pen after the break.
In terms of his replacement, Spencer Patton makes a good deal of sense. He was already up with the team earlier this year, meaning that he was already on the 40 man roster. This allows the Cubs to make the move without needing any addition roster transactions. In Triple-A Iowa this season Patton had a 1.04 ERA (1.74 FIP) and an excellent 40.0% strikeout rate, to just an 8.6% walk rate in 26 IP. Whether he remains with the team after the break is far too complicated to tell. By then, a number of things can change, so we’ll hold off on that conversation until its necessary.
(UPDATE II) So we covered the right side of this deal, but what about the lefties? The Cubs sent left-handed reliever (and almost LOOGY) Clayton Richard to the 15-day disabled list with a blister on the middle finger of his left hand (as well as a nail issue), according to Sahadev Sharma on Twitter. Despite historically being good against lefties, Richard had been struggling mightily against batters on both sides of the plate in 2016: 7.30 ERA/3.85 FIP/4.92 xFIP. Facing righties, he’s allowed a .406/.472/.452 slash line, and against lefties he’s allowed a .333/.407/.391 slash line. Neither were working for the Cubs, so he’ll get a break on the disabled list, rest the blister (which may or may not be a direct cause of all his problems), and heal up before presumably returning to the pen in a couple of weeks.
Called up to replace him is a name you might recognize, but have forgotten in recent years: Gerardo Concepcion. Concepcion was signed out of Cuba to a 5 year/$6 million deal back in 2012, but struggled to put things together early in his career. He began last season with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, before getting promoted to Double-A Tennessee after just 7 games (3.55 ERA). Upon reaching Double-A, however, he struggled to an 8.24 ERA over 31.2 IP.
He stayed there to begin the 2016 season, but realized far greater results: 0.00 ERA (2.33 FIP) in 17.2 innings pitched. On May 12, he was promoted to Triple-A Iowa where he continued doing quite well. In another 17.1 innings, Concepcion amassed a 2.60 ERA (3.47 FIP), while striking out 22.7% of the batters he faced. Despite the solid (if unspectacular) K-rate and good results, he did struggle with his command (13.3%). Now, he’ll head to Chicago, join the bullpen and likely be used primarily against lefties. Like Richard, it’s difficult to guess what the rest of his 2016 season will look like, but I suspect he’ll find his way back to Iowa at some point in the season (likely when Richard is ready to return).
We’ll have more on all of this in the coming days as there is a lot to unpack, but hopefully you get the gist of it by now. I’m off to the game, now. So look for me in the bleachers.