(Updated 4:15 PM)
Well, after speculating about it a lot this offseason, it finally happened. The Cubs have designated Tony Campana for assignment. The fact that they held on to him as long as possible indicates the Cubs valued Campana for his speed and ability to play CF, but the signing of Scott Hairston left him as the odd man out. Had the Cubs kept Campana, it would have given them 9 OF'ers on the roster, which is far and away above the norm. Even the current number of 8 is still an unusually high amount, but that is partially due to the Cubs having to roster prospects Matt Szczur and Jorge Soler because they signed MLB contracts.
"It was a difficult call for us," Cubs President Theo Epstein was quoted as saying by Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. "I think it speaks to the fact that our 40-man roster is starting to have better depth on it. We preferred not to take a pitcher off at this juncture. So, looking at the position player group, it seemed to make sense to us to make this procedural move with Tony."
As a reminder, the DFA means the Cubs have up to 10 days before they put him on waivers. During that time they could seek a trade with another team. If no deal can be reached, the Cubs will need to put him through waivers. If a team claims him, it comes with the stipulation that he must be put on that team's 40 man roster.
By making this move late, the Cubs increased the odds that teams may let him pass through. Most teams have their 40 man rosters set at this point. However, Campana offers a unique skill with is top of the scale speed. Coupled with his ability to play CF, he could be useful for a team that can afford to carry him as their 5th outfielder. I have to think he'll get some interest and there is a good chance he gets claimed, even as teams head into the spring with full roster.
That could work to the Cubs favor. If there is an interested team that's lower on the waiver priority, then the Cubs may be able to work out a trade instead of hoping that a team with higher priority doesn't claim him.
If a trade or waiver claim does not happen, then the Cubs can assign him to the Iowa roster or Campana can elect to be a free agent.
The move virtually assures that Dave Sappelt will win that 5th outfielder's spot. While he doesn't possess any tools that standout as much as Campana's speed, Sappelt offers a more complete skill set. He's a good defender at the corners, possesses above average speed, and can hit LHP well, something the Cubs will need with two lefty hitting outfielders who have had some struggles against LHP.
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