Chicago Cubs Signing Reliever Vinny Nittoli to a Minor League Deal

The latest minor league signing for the Chicago Cubs is another possible relief option, the well-traveled Vinny Nittoli. Fun fact? Nittoli was JUST released by the Phillies, who’d bumped him from the 40-man roster to accommodate none other than Erich Uelmen, who’d been bumped off the CUBS’ 40-man roster, and was thereafter traded to the Phillies for cash.

Per Bob Nightengale:

Nittoli, 32, has pitched in the big leagues and at Triple-A for five different organizations the last two years, and eyeballing his travel log suggests he’s one of those guys who is clearly good enough to hang around that Triple-A/MLB border, but hasn’t quite established himself in anyone’s bullpen or on anyone’s 40-man roster. You know the type: good, but juuuuust shy of getting over that hump to being a middle reliever for a few years.

Nittoli spent the biggest chunk of his 2022 season at Triple-A with the Yankees, posting a 3.44 ERA and 4.11 FIP over 36.2 innings. He struck out a very nice 29.9% and walked just 8.8%, but the 1.23 HR/9 is what bit him the most. He opted out of his deal at midseason, joining the Blue Jays on a minor league deal, pitching well again, and then opting out again (clearly he’s good enough to keep getting deals with opt outs baked in). The Phillies picked him up at that point and put him on their big league roster down the stretch.

Nittoli basically takes Uelmen’s spot in a pseudo trade, where the Cubs get the older guy, but on a minor league deal and not having to keep him on the 40-man roster.

I wonder if there were discussions about all this with the Phillies – seems a little crazy that the Cubs and Phillies got together on a cash trade for Uelmen while he was on the waiver wire, and then just TWO DAYS after Nittoli is released by the Phillies (after he’d been DFA’d to open up a spot for Uelmen), the Cubs sign him. I’d imagine the Cubs were already eyeing Nittoli, but didn’t want to “trade” for him, because then he’d have to be on the 40-man roster.

The Cubs have obviously had a lot of success rehabilitating this profile and/or helping them become very productive big leaguers. Keep on taking these swings. The cost is minimal, and the upside is a surprisingly-productive relief arm who has a minor league option remaining, and who would be still be pre-arbitration for several more years. Based on his previous contracts, my guess is Nittoli has an early opt-out in his deal with the Cubs, for what it’s worth.

written by

Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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