Much like a parent, a President/GM’s job is never finished!
So you probably shouldn’t be surprised to hear that even now – after the trade deadline, an eight-game winning streak, and a roster so crunched that Tommy La Stella, Justin Grimm, and Trevor Cahill can’t find a spot in Chicago – the Cubs are making extreme depth additions, just in case.
Chris Cotillo is reporting that the Chicago Cubs have agreed to a minor league deal with former Arizona Diamondbacks’ right-hander, Josh Collmenter. Collmenter was designated for assignment and ultimately released by Arizona late last week, before the Cubs swooped in and scooped him up. Although Collmenter hasn’t pitched in a couple of weeks (his last appearance came on July 25th), Cotillo suggests that “he’s expected to be a factor down the stretch.”
That may be difficult to imagine right now – at least and especially until September – but the Cubs did the same thing with Trevor Cahill last year and he proved an integral part of their stretch run. You never know for sure.
So let’s take a look at Collmenter and see what the Cubs picked up.
Collmenter, 30, is a former starter who transitioned into the bullpen just the season. In fact, he was the D-backs opening day starter as recently as 2015, but became a reliever after spending the first six weeks of the season on the disabled list due to shoulder tightness. On the surface, his past as a starter is your obvious Cubbie-connection, given what we know about the Cubs interest in having versatile relievers, but maybe they’ve also spotted something they believe they can fix. At least, I hope that’s the case.
Since returning to the Majors as a reliever on May 27, Collmenter struggled mightily in limited duty. Through 22.1 innings pitched, he has a 4.84 ERA, with a 5.68 FIP and a matching 4.84 xFIP. He’s allowed four home runs during that stretch, and has been bitten by far too many walks (11 – 11.3% BB-rate), especially in few of how few strikeouts he’s getting (17 – 17.5% K-rate).
Still, he induces a fair amount of ground balls (47.7%), is still reasonably young, and has been used as a swing-man in the past. According to Steve Adams (MLBTR) Collmenter “made 75 starts and 110 relief appearances with Arizona,” from 2011-2015, “working to a 3.49 ERA with 6.3 K/9 against 2.1 BB/9.”
In other words, Collmenter was a very solid swing pitcher for a fairly long time coming into 2016. And if the Cubs have a “type” when it comes to reclamation pitchers, Collmenter is it.
Having not pitched in quite some time, Collmenter will likely need a ramp-up back into competitive baseball, after which I suspect he’ll work out of the bullpen in Triple-A Iowa. From there, he’ll serve as extreme depth until September, when the minor league season ends and big league rosters expand … but there’s a big caveat.
Collmenter will have to be added to the 40-man roster before September 1, in order to be eligible to play in the postseason. The exception, of course, is that he could replace an injured player, but neither I (nor the Cubs) would necessarily roll the dice and count on that happening. That said, the Cubs 40-man roster currently stands at 39 by my count, plus there are several players who could go on the 60-day DL if necessary, so there might not be much of a challenge there. Plus, the Cubs would have nearly three full three weeks to make a corresponding move, if necessary. In other words, it’s not a problem right now, but it’s something you should keep in mind if Collmenter winds up looking like a guy with a chance to be on the playoff roster. [Brett: Yes, yes, the Cubs are loaded and it seems extremely unlikely that an addition like Collmenter will wind up on the playoff roster. But guys get hurt, emergencies come up, etc. You’ve gotta have back-up-back-up-back-up plans in place.]
Collmenter was making $1.85MM with Arizona this year before being released, so the Cubs will pay just a prorated portion of the Major League minimum if and when he’s added to the 40-man. Low risk. (He also has a $2 million mutual option on his deal for 2017.)
These extreme depth/flyer types don’t always work out and I know they aren’t the sexiest of moves, but many of them are what got the Cubs to where they are today.
Also, a bonus on Collmenter: he likes to teach physics to his teammates.