It was too much to hope that Duane Underwood, Jr. would clear waivers and be outrighted to Triple-A Iowa. The fastball-changeup-curveball pitch mix is too good for a number of rebuilding clubs not to want to take a chance on him. Thus, he wasn’t going to clear waivers after being DFA’d to make room for Ryan Tepera, and today the Cubs made a trade.
The Cubs have traded Underwood to the Pirates for 20-year-old first base prospect Shendrik Apostel, a 2017 IFA signing out of Curaçao. He’s a huuuuge dude who put up absurd numbers in 2018 and 2019 (about 40% better than league average). Your “buts” are that both seasons were in the Dominican Summer League, so it’s not stateside ball, and he was about a year older than the average competition in 2019. He also appears to be a bat-only first base guy who now hasn’t played organized ball in almost two years.
This looks like a projection/upside lottery ticket type, but hey, when it’s for a guy you were DFA’ing anyway, that’s not a bad get. The Cubs don’t have many upside bets at first base in the system, so why not get him into the system and see what you’ve got?
Underwood was out of minor league options, so if he wasn’t going to make the Cubs bullpen, he was going to have to hit waivers eventually. On the Pirates, he stands a much stronger chance of making the big league team.
What’s interesting is that the Pirates had the top waiver priority by virtue of their league-worst record last year. That means they believed they were not going to get a chance to claim Underwood off of waivers – i.e., the Cubs had other trade offers for Underwood.