You probably remember lefty Tony Cingrani fairly well from his days with the Reds. He was a consensus top 100 prospect who came up and dominated as a rookie in 2013. I knew things had fallen off for him from there, mostly because you didn’t hear about him much and he wasn’t “scary” when the Cubs were facing him in the subsequent seasons with the Reds. He wound up transitioning into a relief role, was passable in 2016 in that capacity, and then was pretty darn good in his half year with the Dodgers in 2017.
But in 2018 he hurt his shoulder, it recurred in 2019, he had labrum surgery, then the pandemic happened, and he only just returned to organized baseball this year in the Atlantic League. Eight dominant appearances later, and he’s been signed by the Cubs:
— Lexington Legends (@LexingtonLegend) June 28, 2021
Cingrani, only 32 next month, was clearly way, way too good for indy ball at this point: 8.0 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 1 BB, 14(!) K. To be sure, the stats in that league don’t really tell you too much, but they do tell you that he was throwing strikes and not getting hit. And since we know that, when he was healthy, he’d become an effective big league reliever, there’s no reason not to take the chance on him now.
You can presume that the Cubs are bringing in Cingrani this year to see if he can be competitive almost immediately. He’ll get time in the minor league system so the Cubs can work with him and monitor his performance against affiliated bats (presumably Triple-A Iowa), and then if there’s a need in the big league bullpen and a spot on the 40-man roster, maybe he gets the call.
The Cubs right now have more big-league-caliber options at Triple-A than they can actually use, which, hey, is a great thing. But the reality is that injury issues can pop up and snowball quickly, and given how heavily the big league bullpen has been used, there’s no reason not to bring in additional arms that might contribute in the right circumstances. Cingrani won’t be taking innings away from any prospects, and if he’s healthy and has re-unlocked what made him so great with the Dodgers in 2017 (2.79 ERA and 1.86 FIP over 19.1 second half innings (and another 5.0 postseason innings of 1.80-ERA ball)), heck yeah give him a look.
Bonus: Cingrani is originally from the Chicago area, so you get that extra pulling-for-the-hometown-guy vibe.