Perhaps lost in the shuffle of a series of roster moves and option decisions, some unsavory rumors about the Cubs financial flexibility, and the potential return of Addison Russell were three waiver claims: Jerry Vasto, Jack Reinheimer, and Johnny Field.
So I thought we could take a moment, look back at what we discussed, add a little more context, and plop it all in once place for these three new Cubs. Cool? Cool.
Jerry Vasto LHP – 26
The Cubs claimed Jerry Vasto off waivers from the Royals on Halloween, and here’s part of what Brett had to say about the lefty at the time:
A victim of the 40-man roster crunch … Vasto actually spent most of 2018 at AAA with the Rockies, pitching well (3.16 ERA, 3.88 FIP, 27.7% K rate, 11.3% BB rate) at a tough place to pitch, before getting a cup of coffee at the end of the year with the Rockies and Royals.
The 26-year-old came to the Royals in an August trade for catcher Drew Butera, which more or less gives you a sense of his perceived value. He’s been a career reliever after being a 24th round pick in 2014, and, while he has put up solid numbers in the minor leagues, he doesn’t have the numbers or pedigree you’d expect from much more than an October/November waiver claim – which, hey, he is!
As Brett points out, Vasto was never much of a top prospect – his best ranking may have been as the Rockies #30 prospect after the 2016 season – but he does clearly have some solid Minor League numbers, particularly last season at Triple-A. Of course, his first turn at Triple-A in 2017 didn’t go quite as well (6.88 ERA, 4.69 FIP in 53.2 IP) and when you’re his age, you’re more or less expected to put up solid numbers in the minors – if you hope to be a sure-fire big leaguer.
Then again, he has always put up big strikeout numbers (27.7% in 2018) and sometimes, relievers click late or with certain coaches. As an easy pick up, Vasto is pretty interesting.
He’s got minor league options remaining, too, so the Cubs can bounce him up and down from the minor leagues as needed next year, which is necessary in this day and age.
Jack Reinheimer, SS/IF – 26
The Cubs claimed Jack Reinheimer off waivers on November 2nd, the same day they out-righted Terrance Gore and Mike Freeman off the 40-man. In a lot of ways, Reinheimer is like a younger version of Freeman, insofar as providing big league shortstop depth from the Minor leagues.
Here’s what I had to say at the time:
Reinheimer, 26, is an extremely versatile utility player/shortstop, who’s only gotten a taste of the big leagues with the Diamondbacks in 2017 (5 PAs) and the Mets last season (35 PAs). He was originally drafted by the Mariners back in 2013, but was never exactly a top prospect. Indeed, his value may be tied up in his defensive prowess (particularly at shortstop) and his overall versatility, but that’s just my immediate guess based on what I’ve seen so far.
I should point out that Reinheimer broke out with the bat a bit in Triple-A this past season (131 wRC+) and added 7 steals in just 16 games, but that was a pretty small sample and he was certainly old for that level. More to the point, Reinheimer strikes me first and foremost as big league shortstop depth for the Cubs – i.e. a guy that can be stashed away in Triple-A Iowa should tragedy strike the big league roster (this is assuming, of course, Addison Russell gets traded sometime in the next few months).
Unlike Vasto, Reinheimer did have a slightly elevated prospect status during his career – he was a top-15 prospect for the Diamondbacks back between 2015-2016 and was the 14th best prospect in the Northwest League back in 2013 – but it was never anything crazy. Again, his value seems to be tied up in the Cubs uncertainty at shortstop and the need for depth at AAA.
Johnny Field, OF – 26
Johnny Field is the third 26-year-old the Cubs claimed off waivers since the offseason began, and here’s what Brett said when Field was claimed:
Field split his 2018 season mostly at AAA between the Rays, Twins, and Indians, and in the big leagues between the Rays and Twins in his first Major League action. There, he hit a combined .222/.254/.403 (76 wRC+), showing good power as he had in the minors, but also an absolute refusal to take a walk. He struck out at a 30.9% clip while walking just 3.0% of the time. My sense? This is a dude who hits the ball very hard … when he hits it.
The Cubs could use some upper-level depth in the outfield, and having a guy who can play all three positions while bouncing up and down between AAA and the big leagues is always a nice thing. It’s possible the Cubs will yet try to sneak Field through waivers so they can outright him off of the 40-man roster, but for now, it stands at 36.
Despite the killer baseball name, Field was a “top prospect” only once in his career, and that was as the Rays #27 prospect after the 2014 season – guys with one or two obvious tools, but a lot more question marks often end up in this range.
In any case, the common thread is fairly easy to see: The Cubs picked up three 26-year-old AAA/AAAA types with one or two big talents and modest upside. They also got depth for the infield, the outfield, and the bullpen in the process, and did it for no cost.
Most importantly: Vasto and Field have two option years left, while Reinheimer has one. That means that if they can last on the Cubs 40-man roster throughout the winter, all three can be shuttled to and from Triple-A Iowa as many times as needed next summer (and then Vasto and Field can again in 2020).
Of course, the Cubs might try to sneak any or all three of them through waivers so they can outright them off the 40-man roster (after all, it does stand at 39 already), at which point they could be outrighted to Iowa, and kept there for at least the 2019 season or until they are called up. Indeed, the odds are very long that all three stay on the 40-man roster all offseason.