The Chicago Cubs didn’t wait long to do something with the 40-man roster spot vacated today by Eli Whiteside (designated for assignment). Today, the Cubs added lefty starter Tsuyoshi Wada to the 40-man roster, and optioned him to AAA Iowa. That’s where has pitched all year, so “optioning” him is just a technical requirement after adding him to the 40-man.
Speaking of technical requirements, it’s a pretty good guess that the reason the Cubs added Wada to the 40-man was because he would soon be able to opt-out of his minor league deal, and seek a job with another team if the Cubs didn’t. That would explain why the Cubs would add Wada now, even if they aren’t bringing him up any time soon.
If you needed a strong hint that Wada is the Cubs’ current number six starter, this is it. If and when the Cubs deal a starting pitcher, or if there’s a injury, Wada is likely to be the first guy to get a crack at jumping into the rotation. Kyle Hendricks may be the AAA starter with the brightest future, but he’s not yet on the 40-man roster, and the Cubs may prefer to wait to add him until after the season. You could make an argument for any of Eric Jokisch, Chris Rusin, or Dallas Beeler getting the call over Wada (each of Rusin and Beeler is already on the 40-man), but it’s possible the Cubs would prefer to see what they have in Wada, knowing that they could just as easily wait on the other three until next season. And, to be perfectly fair, it’s likely that more than one rotation spot is going to open up before this season is over. (And/or, if the Cubs give Wada a look for a month, and they don’t believe he’s got a big league future, they can move on to one of the others and let Wada go.)
Although he’s 33-years-old, Wada isn’t quite your typical journeyman, having been a great starter in Japan before coming to the Orioles two years ago … and immediately getting Tommy John surgery. Wada has never had a chance to pitch in the big leagues, and, despite his age, could theoretically emerge as a medium-term piece for the Cubs if he showed he had back-of-the-rotation stuff in the second half.
Interestingly, Wada probably has marginal trade value, himself, at this point. No, you wouldn’t see the Cubs getting much in return for Wada, but it’s worth that 40-man spot right now just in case. For all of the reasons that Wada is an interesting possible piece for the Cubs, there are a number of other teams out there who would likely love to roll the dice on him, too.
In 86.1 PCL innings this year, Wada sports a 2.81 ERA (3.55 FIP), and has struck out 83 while walking 23.