Hey! A big-league deal! How about that?
Just moments ago, news broke all at once – including from the team, itself – that the Chicago Cubs have signed right-hander Kohl Stewart to a major league deal for 2021.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) January 28, 2021
UPDATE: The deal is for $700,000.
Stewart, 26, is a former first-round draft pick (4th overall pick in the 2013 draft, just two spots behind Kris Bryant) and top prospect (No. 52 in MLB back in 2014), who has spent his entire career so far with the Twins, eventually debuting at the big league level in 2018:
He opted out of the 2020 season due to being high risk (type 1 diabetes), but he’s back at it for 2021, ready to recapture the magic that made him a top prospect on a team that should have PLENTY of innings to go around this season – at least, if they’re eying him for the rotation (I suppose, we’ll see).
Looking quickly at his Statcast data (we’ll dig in more thoroughly later on), it seems his curveball has a pretty intriguing spin rate, and he mixes it in often with his sinker and slider (though he also uses a four-seamer and a changeup). I’m sure the Cubs are excited to get him into the pitch lab to see what they can make of him. Sexy or not, this is almost exactly the type of pitcher you want to see the Cubs target right now – someone, who, if unlocked, could develop into a long-term, upside piece. And presumably, at a fairly low cost (Update: $700K).
One thing to keep in mind is that without pitching competitively in 2020, Stewart will be even further behind some of the pitchers who had shorter seasons last year, so I wouldn’t pencil him in for a large volume of starts just yet (again, if that’s the way they’re going). Either way, if he can eat some innings and demonstrate some long-term value, we’d all obviously be thrilled.
Of course, throwing him in the bullpen would be a nice consolation, as well – especially considering the fact that he comes with five years of remaining control:
The 2013 No. 4 overall pick (two spots behind Kris Bryant) was released by the Twins in November. Low-risk, potential-upside signing of one-time prospect with 5 seasons club control remaining. https://t.co/Ey2ViTTYPf
— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubCub) January 28, 2021
Reminder, as of now, the Cubs rotation is almost definitely going to include Kyle Hendricks, Zach Davies, Adbery Alzolay, and Alec Mills, with, now, Stewart, Shelby Miller, Tyson Miller, Cory Abbot, Justin Steele, and Keegan Thompson all providing depth.
Meanwhile, the Cubs have been connected to Carlos Rodon, Chris Archer, and Mike Foltynewicz. Adding one more of those three would go a long way towards covering the MANY innings we suspect we’ll be available this year.
Closing thought: I wonder if the Cubs had some prior interest in Stewart, given that they were also heavily scouting pitchers back in that 2013 draft.