The Cubs Are Bringing Mark Leiter Jr. Back on a Minor League Deal
Woo hoo! The Chicago Cubs get to keep Mark Leiter Jr. after all!
If you missed the procedural roster maneuverings, it went like this: the Cubs needed a 40-man spot earlier this year for the various moves, and they opted to DFA Leiter on the thinking that he could clear waivers (he has no minor league options remaining). Leiter did clear waivers, and then he had the choice of accepting an outright assignment from the Cubs or hitting free agency. He chose free agency.
BUT! That never meant that the Cubs couldn’t re-sign him, and sure enough, they have:
Had I to guess, the reason it played out this way is because the deal Leiter would’ve gotten by accepting the outright assignment was probably not as good – in dollars and in early opt-out rights – as he could get in free agency. So, either he and the Cubs always knew he would re-sign on a better deal, or he wanted to look around first, and then ultimately came back to the Cubs.
Either way, the Cubs now have Leiter available to compete for a bullpen job in camp, and then head to Iowa to open the season if he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster. As I said, I suspect he’ll probably have a pretty early opt-out in his deal if the Cubs haven’t added him to the roster, so they might have to make a decision on him pretty early in the year. But better to have him at all and have to make that choice.
Leiter, 31, was initially a fill-in starter for the Cubs, but then really shined when he was moved to the bullpen in 2022. As a reliever, Leiter posted a 2.87 ERA over 53.1 innings, striking out 28.6% and walking just 8.3%. He was able to really push it in short bursts, and also lean much more heavily on his wipeout splitter. I’m very happy the Cubs were able to keep him around, and it’s entirely possible that he makes the bullpen by the end of Spring Training – you never know how injuries and effectiveness and other moves will shake out.