Another 40-man roster move for the Chicago Cubs today, making the Drew Smyly signing officially official. To make room for Smyly on the otherwise full 40-man, righty Erich Uelmen was designated for assignment.
Smyly, 33, will enter Spring Training as a presumptive member of the Opening Day rotation, but has the versatility to pitch in multiple roles if need be. He and the Cubs clearly got on very well last year, and when he was healthy, the results were there.
Interesting note from Mark Feinsand on the deal, which was reported as two years and a mutual option for 2025 (the Cubs announcement says the same). There’s actually a pretty important term omitted there:
Smyly can opt out after this season. That means you could characterize this deal as something more like a one-year deal with a player option for 2024 (since that 2025 mutual option will just never, ever be exercised). Basically, Smyly pitches this year for $8 million, and then he decides whether he wants *at least* $11 million for 2024 (salary plus buyout the next year), or whether he wants to hit free agency yet again. In other words, if Smyly is great in 2023, this is a one-year deal. If he’s not, the Cubs are going to be on the hook for a not-insignificant salary in 2024. All in all, not an unfair contract for either side, actually.
As for Uelmen, the 26-year-old reliever absolutely showed flashes of being a capable arm – you could see a big league slider and big league sinker in there, at times, just not consistently – but posted a 4.67 ERA and 5.00 FIP over his first 27.0 MLB innings. We knew he was an on-the-fence guy as far as the 40-man roster went, and the Cubs have so much optionable relief depth, so this decision is not shocking.
All that said, because of the arm talent, I would not be surprised to see Uelmen claimed on waivers. He was outstanding at Triple-A after being converted, full-time to relief. He can get a ton of groundballs, and again, the pitch characteristics may intrigue some other org. If he isn’t claimed, however, the Cubs can outright him to Triple-A Iowa, and keep him for at least the 2023 season.
The Cubs still have a full 40-man roster. Among reported signings, the Tucker Barnhart deal is not yet officially official.