So, this is something of a pleasant surprise, at least from a roster-maximization standpoint.
Anthony Bass is healthy and cleared waivers. Activated off the MLB DL and assigned to the Triple-A roster. The 40-man now sits at 39.
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) August 12, 2018
Bass, 30, has posted a 2.93 ERA for the Cubs this year, with peripherals that support that level of success. It’s been just 15.1 big league innings, so there’s not a huge sample, but he’s pretty much looked the part since returning to MLB from Japan (he got a minor league deal with the Cubs in the offseason). His numbers at AAA Iowa have been very good, too.
Bass was already rehabbing at AAA Iowa, so he doesn’t actually go anywhere. But here’s the thing: as a pitcher out of minor league options, this was the only way the Cubs could get him onto Iowa’s roster once he was healthy enough to be activated – it was big league roster or assignment waivers.
Given how successful Bass has been this year, I’m pretty surprised he cleared waivers (keep in mind, this is not trade waivers, this is you-get-him-for-free-right-now waivers). The fact that Bass didn’t have any options left probably played a role, but consider that Jorge De La Rosa just got a big league roster spot from the Cubs, so it’s not as if there aren’t contenders on the lookout for quality relievers – or even marginal relievers.
I’ll have to ponder this a bit more as to why there wasn’t a single club out there willing to put him on their big league roster. You’d think even a rebuilding team would be interested, because you could get cheap, possibly very good, relief option for 2019 just by rostering him and tendering him a contract. Sure, he’s eligible for arbitration, but it’s not going to be an onerous amount (and it’s also not fully guaranteed if he shows up to Spring Training and looks lost).
Anyway, this is good news for the Cubs, who get to keep Bass and can bring him back up any time. At a minimum, he figures to be back in September, when rosters expand to the full 40-man – he’ll just have to be put back on the 40-man at that time.
(As for whether Bass should have been returned to the big league roster right now, he’s likely a better relief option than Tyler Chatwood, but he cannot be bounced from the roster without being lost for good – and he’s still under control for two more years. The Cubs are going to want to at least give him one offseason to straighten out. Obviously the Cubs added De La Rosa for a reason, and other than those two, there isn’t anyone else you’d likely bounce for Bass. So there you go.)