Cubs claim hard-throwing RP R.J. Alvarez

There is no question the Cubs are looking for bullpen both in the short term and the long term.  It's not exactly been terrible, but on a team filled with so many strengths, it is the only thing that can qualify as a potential weakness.

There are stories that the Cubs are indeed scouting Yankees relievers, but bear in mind that scouting does not equate to trade talks.  There have been no names discussed.  The Yankees aren't even sure to be sellers at this point.  They are just 5 1/2 games out and have been playing well of late.  It is more about due diligence.  Obviously the Cubs would have interest in arms like Andrew Miller or even Delin Betances.

In the meantime, the Cubs will look for other ways to shore up their bullpen and if an inexpensive opportunity arises that pans out, it could save the Cubs from making an expensive move down the road.  At the very least, you acquire depth at AAA.

That is the thinking when the Cubs picked up R.J. Alvarez off of waivers.  Alvarez, formerly of the Athletics, has a strong arm, averaging about 95 mph and can touch 98.  He has a second plus pitch in a slider.  As you might expect, the issue with Alvarez has always been commanding those pitches.  Why else would you let a 25 year old with that kind of arm strength go for nothing?

There also have been questions about Alvarez's durability.  He does have a max effort delivery with the kind of short arm action you often see with relievers.  Sure enough, Alvarez did get hurt and had surgery on his elbow in March.  Obviously this was a move with an eye toward next season, but a chance worth taking for the long term.

Alvarez did pitch at the MLB level, most recently in 2015 with the Athletics.  He posted a 9.90 ERA with 5.85 walks per 9 IP, but the number that attracted him to the Cubs were those velocities and the 10.35 Ks per 9 IP.  He's a power arm that will miss bats -- if he can throw strikes.  The Cubs will see what they have and if there is a tweak or two they can make.  If it works out...great.  If it doesn't, there really isn't much cost to have a look.

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  • I work with RJ's uncle.... if RJ does some rehabbing at AA (Tenn. Smokies), I will post some pics.

  • In reply to Tennwolfeman:

    Thanks you know anything about him, say like makeup? I like these no risk, decent reward, no cost moves the Cubs make. Get him healthy, lets see what he does at AAA next year, and if does something good, we have so little invested.

  • In reply to copinblue:

    I called the Smokies yesterday and all they would say is that RJ is not with the team yet. I will text his uncle shortly and track down his whereabouts. I talk to his Uncle Warren every day at work and he's optimistic about RJ's future. I will try to get more specifics so I can answer your question about his "makeup". RJ's control has been an issue but I remain hopeful that the Cubs' pitching coaches can tweak his delivery enough to improve in that area. RJ has incredibly strong legs to go with his arm. RJ is thrilled to be a Cub! He's got the right mental approach to be a success in the bigs! He played with Bryant in Arizona a couple of years ago.

  • In reply to copinblue:

    RJ's uncle confirmed that RJ will be with the Smokies today. I will be there and get some pics. Are we free to post pics on this blog?

  • fb_avatar eye towards next year which is prob one of the main reasons he was optioned to AA, Tennessee

  • Makes sense. Remember Cahill was a pickup last year and that worked out.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to TD40:

    That worked out pretty well. Let's hope we find another arm here. It's a low cost, high reward pick that the FO likes.
    Cubs just won. I left home and it was 7-1 and 30 min later it was
    13-1. This just gets better and better, and I don't want Lester's day to go unnoticed. He was spectacular.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Also, another 180+ pitch game by the Cubs' opponents. I wonder how the opposing teams fare after playing the Cubs. It's like the 1980's Bears, after playing the Bears the opponents were so beat us that a majority lost the next game.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I've wondered this same thing, can anyone look into it? I'm sure there's a stat for it.

    It's baseball - there's a stat for everything.

  • Any news on Joe Nathan?

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    oops. below replying to rbrucato.

  • From TCR yesterday:
    RHRP Joe Nathan (on Cubs MLB 60-day DL - April 2015 TJS) threw his first "live" BP at Riverview Park this morning (one inning - 20 pitches), and he threw 75% of his pitches for strikes, the five balls were close to being strikes, and none of the hitters put a ball in play (Just foul balls and swings & misses).

    Arizona Phil 21 hours 16 min ago

  • Speaking of relievers, what is going on with Neil Ramirez? Really only been in 8!games this year. Maddon does not even turn to him in blow outs. I understand he is out of options, but at this point why carry him on the roster instead of another option off the bench?

  • In reply to Wild Bill:

    He was released a couple weeks ago. Brewers picked him up and played in two games. They released him and now Twins picked hm up.

  • In reply to David23:

    Would you believe I was out of town when this happened? Oh boy and I call myself an educated fan.

  • In reply to Wild Bill:

    Ummm. Ramirez was placed on waivers and picked-up by MIL weeks ago.

  • In reply to Wild Bill:

    Mystery I say. He had 2 good outings with the Crew then got touched for 2 dingers in his 3rd appearance. Poof. See ya. Could be something that's not public knowledge. He was far from awful with the Cubs.

  • Ramirez was claimed by the Twins.

  • Actually never made it through waivers. Brewers put a claim in on him and after let go by them Twins put a claim in for him.

  • The Cubs overwhelming bias for righties stands out. All starters but one. 75% of all relievers. Nearly every legit starting arm in the minors. Every draft pick in the first 10 rounds, and the vast amount of total draftees.

    It's curious as to whether the Cubs bargain hunting ways for pitchers tend to turn up far more bargain righties than bargain lefties? if indeed there is a different bias toward righties? or if its just an extreme cluster bias.

  • In reply to Gunga:

    It might have to do with the fact that 90% of the population is right handed.

  • In reply to Gunga:

    The Cubs want guys who can't get other guys out. They don't care what hand they throw with. The Cubs have signed several lefties cut from the same cloth as R.J. Alvarez.

    Jack Leathersich, CJ Riefenhauser, Scott Barnes and Giovanni Soto have all been brought in this year.

  • The numbers are closer than I thought, but bear out the issue. According to a quick reading of active rosters on ESPN:

    Active Rosters (NI Cubs. Cubs =3)
    Median number of left handed pitchers: 4.0
    Mean Number of left handed pitchers: 3.5

    Yes. I get that the Cubs want to get guys out. As with many facets of life, I think the percentages generally improve with greater diversity, rather than greater homogeneity. Hence the consistent focus on righties throughout the various levels of the system is a greater concern than just on the active roster.

  • In reply to Gunga:

    Actually, it's not a "concern" at all. The Cubs will continue to obtain the best available, regardless of which side they throw from.

  • Homogeneity with our pitchers is all fine and dandy if the opposing batters are a 50/50 split between right handed and left handed at bats.

  • In reply to KJRyno:

    And, basically, being above or below the above mean by 0.5 is whether you have 1 or 2 lefty starters.

  • That is correct too. Quick calculations show opposing batters have batted right handed against us 1152 times and left handed batters have batted against us 874 times. That is quite a gap considering you would think opposing teams would stack lefty's against our 4/5 right handed starting rotation and even more so with our right handed dominant pen......Bottom line is that even though you need lefties to get out those tough left handed batters, it makes perfect sense to have more right handed pitchers on your team, not just because there are more of them, but that there are more right handed hitters as well.

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