That was fast.
Just a day after he was activated from the Injured List (ankle) and was tasked with eating up almost 50 pitches worth of time in a blowout, lefty Sean Newcomb has been designated for assignment.
He’s being replaced on the active roster by lefty Eric Stout, who is also now added to the 40-man roster:
Stout, 29, was in the minor-league-reclamation-signing vein this offseason, and the former Royals, Reds, and Marlins farm-hand has posted a 3.94 ERA (4.40 FIP) over 26.2 innings at Iowa. The 36.6% K rate is really compelling, but it’s paired with a terrifying 16.8% walk rate. The strikeout rate is by farrrrrrrr the highest of his career, though, so it seems likely the Cubs have helped him tweak something fundamental with his stuff. Maybe the control will come next?
It’s more likely, though, that the Cubs simply find themselves in dire need for an arm that can give them innings, and they’d like it to be someone who may not last on the 40-man roster all season in any case. With Stout, although you’re rooting for him to succeed, without question, it’s unlikely that he’d be claimed on waivers if the Cubs later had to DFA him. So you add him to the 40-man, bring him up, and then when you need another spot, he might be the first to go back on waivers.
(UPDATE: As a number of folks have reminded me and I forgot to note, Stout is also from Glen Ellyn, just outside of Chicago. So this has gotta be special for him in that regard. Here’s hoping he gets into some games at Wrigley Field this week.)
Speaking of waivers, Newcomb had an erratic rehab at Iowa (performance-wise), and then was unplayable yesterday. It was brief, but enough for the Cubs to decide it was time to risk losing him on waivers. I have a hard time seeing him claimed, but there might be some other organization out there that always wants a chance to work with him. The stuff remains really impressive and he’s had past big league success, but he could not command it consistently with the Cubs. I had hoped he would demonstrate a little more reason to stick around so that the Cubs would have more time to work with him. I loved the upside. But it’s hard to quibble with this decision, especially since the Cubs might not fully lose him from the organization.
They now have seven days to trade, release, or waive Newcomb, and I expect they will try the latter with a hope they can then outright him to Iowa. Newcomb cannot be outrighted without his permission, but he may accept the assignment so that he can keep his $900,000 contract, rather than try to find a better in-season payday in free agency.