Before the flip of the calendar, the Chicago Cubs designated reliever Erich Uelmen for assignment to open up a 40-man roster spot for Drew Smyly. Because of the holidays, the normal 10-day window to resolve the DFA was extended slightly, and we just got the resolution today.
Uelmen has been traded to the Phillies for a cash consideration, per a team announcement.
Translation? Multiple teams were going to want to claim Uelmen on waivers – which comes with a $100,000 fee – but none were going to offer a meaningful prospect/player return. The Phillies must’ve wanted him most, and knew he wouldn’t reach them in the waiver priority. So, they offered the Cubs more than $100,000 in trade, and since the Cubs were apparently going to lose Uelmen on waivers anyway, they take it.
From the DFA post: “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.”
I get why the Phillies would want Uelmen, because, as we’ve discussed, he has the look of two big league pitches in his sinker-slider mix. He comes with minor league options, so you can shuttle him up and down from the minors as necessary bullpen depth. Teams SHOULD want a guy like that; for the Cubs, they just have so many of those guys already on the 40-man and arriving soon. It’s a situation where you hope the Cubs are better at scouting their own players than other teams are at scouting Cubs players.
Either way, all the best to Uelmen with the Phillies, and all the best to the Cubs in using that extra cash to do something at the margins of the roster.
The Cubs still have the Alfonso Rivas and P.J. Higgins DFA situations to resolve, and more 40-man spots to open up as soon as they add any additional big league deals.