The Chicago Cubs today made their Ryan Tepera signing official, adding him to the 40-man roster and designating reliever Duane Underwood, Jr. for assignment.
Tepera, 33, was frequently quite nasty for the Cubs last year (MVP!), and after a spin around free agency, he ultimately re-upped with the Cubs on a one-year, $800,000 deal with up to $950,000 available in bonuses and incentives. Barring him getting injured or looking totally busted out in Spring Training, he will be part of the Opening Day bullpen.
Underwood, 26, was the Cubs’ second rounder in the first Epstein/Hoyer/McLeod draft in 2012, and he’s had fits and spurts of development ever since. At times, he has looked like a sure-fire big league reliever, because the stuff will play. But at other times, he gets hit really hard. Wildness isn’t so much the issue with him, it’s location in the zone.
That the Cubs are willing to risk losing Underwood on waivers right now suggests at least a few things: (1) relative to the many, many other options, they didn’t like the way he was looking so far in camp; (2) the Cubs still hold out hope for guys like Dillon Maples and James Norwood; and/or (3) the Cubs still think Rowan Wick (intercostal/oblique) could possibly be ready to go before late April. On that second one, you wouldn’t lose Underwood for nothing if you knew you were gonna have to put Wick on the 60-day IL anyway.
The Cubs will presumably hope to get Underwood through waivers and outright him to AAA Iowa where he can stay in the organization as a depth reliever. I wonder if a team will grab him, though, given the quality of the stuff.