Cubs Claim Righty Julian Merryweather Off of Waivers from the Blue Jays, DFA Righty Manny Rodriguez

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Cubs Claim Righty Julian Merryweather Off of Waivers from the Blue Jays, DFA Righty Manny Rodriguez

Chicago Cubs

The Chicago Cubs are still scouring the waiver wire, tonight adding another pitcher they want to have a chance to work with: right-handed reliever Julian Merryweather. To open up a spot on the 40-man roster, the Cubs have designated righty Manny Rodriguez for assignment.

Merryweather, 31, has been an up-down guy for the Blue Jays the last few years, and because he’s out of minor league options, he was a prime candidate for the Jays to try to get through waivers (not unlike the Cubs with Mark Leiter Jr.). I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cubs try to do the same thing later in the offseason.

Merryweather is a hard-throwing guy (97/98 mph fastball), who sports a wipeout slider. A very traditional bullpen type. His results weren’t there this past season, though, mostly because he got hit pretty darn hard when he did get hit. Moreover, his strikeout rate was slightly below league average, which is not what you’d want to see from a guy with his pitch mix in a relief role (walk rate was tiny, so I wonder if he was just … pitching in the strike zone too much?).

It’s not hard to see the Cubs’ interest in Merryweather overall, though, as he’s got that plus velocity on the fastball, which he pairs with above-average spin and above-average extension. He’s a guy you’d want to work with if you were the Cubs, despite the 6.75 big league ERA in 2022 (26.2 IP). Merryweather hasn’t pitched much in the minors the last couple years, but when he has, it’s been dominant.

Bonus? Merryweather originated in the Cleveland organization (2014 5th rounder, was with Cleveland through 2017), so there’s going to be some familiarity there with Carter Hawkins.

As for Manny Rodriguez, I am going to guess that some of you are surprised to see him get the DFA, which means the Cubs now have a week to waive, trade, or release him. I am not SUPER surprised based on how he looked this past season, unfortunately. Here’s what I wrote late in the year:

Manny Rodriguez had a scoreless appearance last night to lower his big league ERA to 2.84 over 12.2 innings of work this season. And yet … I have concerns. If you’ve been watching, you would notice that his fastball velocity is down this year 1 to 2 mph each time out, and he’s not getting any swings and misses. His swinging strike rate, 9.0%, is way below league average (11.1%), which is not at all what you need to see from a late-inning reliever. His CSW%, 21.1%, is kinda terrible. His strikeout rate (14.3%) and walk rate (12.2%) combo are downright scary.

The eye test on Rodriguez has just not seen anything remotely impressive from a guy who, at times last year, looked absolutely explosive. I can’t help but wonder if the arm injury this year really put him behind the curve in his ability to get to where he needed to be, physically. Or at least that’s what I hope, because this version of Rodriguez would not be an impact arm. He might not even be useable over a larger sample.

In other words, once Rodriguez returned from his arm issues last year, he just wasn’t the same guy we’d seen in 2021 (and that year, he wasn’t getting results, even if he was flashing intriguing stuff). The 26-year-old righty might interest some team on the waiver wire that wants a chance to reclaim him (he does have minor league options remaining), but I could see him clearing waivers and being outrighted to Iowa. If that happens, you just hope last year was a blip caused by his extended absence from the arm injury.

Keep in mind, the Cubs still have to make the Trey Mancini signing official (and also are presumably adding another reliever from here), so it is possible they would have been DFA’ing Rodriguez soon in any case. Now they will try to get him through waivers, and may even then DFA Merryweather – when Mancini is official – and try to get *him* through waivers, too.

Rosters are very full this time of year, so you see a lot of waiver movement to try to get guys through (at which point you outright them to Triple-A, and if they cannot decline the outright, you basically have them on a minor league deal for 2023). The Cubs may have been planning to DFA Rodriguez all along, but were waiting for the ideal time when they felt they could get him through waivers, since he cannot decline an outright assignment.

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.