The Cubs were permitted to bring up a 27th man for the double-header today, but in tandem with doing so, they actually went full-on flurry style with their moves.
Per multiple reports, here’s how it is shaking out:
- Anderson Espinoza comes up, officially, as the 27th man for the day.
- Mark Leiter Jr. is being optioned to Triple-A Iowa.
- Steven Brault is being added to the 40-man roster and called up from Iowa.
- Matt Swarmer is being designated for assignment to open up the 40-man spot for Brault.
Not too much to say on the first two, other than it’s interesting that the Cubs are making sure to retain Leiter in the organization for now, and clearly this seems to be Anderson’s role this year for the Cubs (bulk depth arm who is already on the 40-man).
The other two moves come as something of a surprise.
You may recall that Brault, 30, was among the many reclamation signings for the Cubs after the lockout ended, but his deal was converted to a minor league deal when the physical revealed an arm issue. That issue required a lengthy rehab, from which Brault was only just emerging (three brief rehab appearances at Iowa). Mostly a starter in his career, Brault figures to pitch out of the bullpen for the Cubs, and the timing of his return either has to have been dictated by a coming opt-out in his minor league deal, or by the 0.1% hope that he looks so good over the next two and a half weeks that a team sends the Cubs a modest prospect to add Brault to their bullpen in the second half. Seems pretty unlikely, but I guess there isn’t a lot of harm in finding out in this limited period of time.
Otherwise, past the Trade Deadline, there’s still a reason to keep Brault around, since he can be controlled via arbitration after this season if he shows out. Again, that, too, seems pretty unlikely, but the Cubs have had success stories like this before. I have no problem with them trying it out.
Lastly, the Swarmer thing. We are going to see guys squeezed off the 40-man roster in the coming months – all the way up to the November deadline to protect prospects from the Rule 5 Draft – so it’s possible (likely?) Swarmer was not going to survive the offseason on the 40-man anyway. Still, it’s a bit surprising to see the Cubs DFA’ing him already. Do they already have a minor trade lined up? Do they believe he is more likely to clear waivers right now than later in the year?
I would have thought the Cubs would want to see Swarmer in a multi-inning relief role at Iowa (the results were obviously mixed in the big leagues) before cutting bait. So, yeah, I suppose this could just be about hoping to optimize the time for sneaking him through waivers. Like Brault, it is unlikely that Swarmer was going to stick around and be a significant contributor in 2023, so I’m not freaking out or anything. I’m just surprised. We’ll see how the situation plays out.