When the Chicago Cubs decided to designate outfielder Matt Szczur for assignment on Saturday to make room for an extra arm in the bullpen, there was an air of finality, because we knew Szczur was too valuable and intriguing to make it through waivers. Such is the problem of a dense roster and a player without minor league options left.
And, sure enough, tonight the Padres announced that they’d acquired Szczur from the Cubs for pitching prospect Justin Hancock. As expected, there was enough interest in Szczur that, even on the waiver wire, a team high up in the claiming order wanted to make a trade to acquire him.
Hancock, 26, is a long-time member of the Padres’ organization, having been drafted by the team in the 9th round of the 2011 draft. He missed most of the 2016 season, and has returned here in 2017 as a reliever. The numbers aren’t anything to get excited about, so this may be more of a scouting play on the stuff playing up now that he’s pitching out of the bullpen. We’ll have to dig in a little more when not feverishly typing on the fly.
As for Szczur, he joins an organization that will have more time and roster space to not only accommodate him at the big league level, but finally give him a chance to win a real starting job. Szczur has talent, especially if he can just up the power a little bit, and continue playing solid defense and running the bases well. Maybe he never emerges as a starter, but he figures to be a good 4th/5th outfielder type, at a minimum.
It’s unfortunate for the Cubs how the timing on all of this shook out – Szczur was DFA’d just before Brett Anderson was injured, and just after Jason Heyward was injured (but before a DL stint was determined necessary). In another world, Szczur’s still on the Cubs’ roster. But then again, this trade is still probably the best thing for him, and maybe that’s enough for today.