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Cubs announce first round of September call ups and acquire Leonys Martin from Seattle

Cubs announce first round of September call ups and acquire Leonys Martin from Seattle
Dillon Maples (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

UPDATE: Rob Zastryzny was not added to the roster today and will likely have to wait until the Iowa season concludes. Leonys Martin will also not be added right away so only two 40-man roster moves were necessary. The club has designated Seth Frankoff and Jose Rosario for assignment to make room for Dillon Maples and Mike Freeman.

UPDATE 2: Martin will join the club Saturday. Another roster move will be necessary at that time.

 

The first wave of September call ups are on their way to Chicago. The Cubs will welcome back Victor Caratini to fill the role of a 3rd catcher and bat off the bench and Rob Zastryzny as a long reliever and 3rd lefty option out of the pen. The Cubs will also activate Justin Grimm from the 10-day DL. All three moves were expected and do not require any additional roster shuffling in order to bring the players up from their recent stints in Iowa. The club also announced that Jon Lester will be activated from the DL for a start on Saturday. Mike Montgomery will remain in the rotation and the Cubs will use six starters down the stretch, just as they did last season.

It will undoubtedly be a nerve-wracking day for the players on the fringe of the 40-man roster (Seth Frankoff, Jose Rosario, Pierce Johnson, Jack Leathersich) as it appears the Cubs will need to make room for not just reliever Dillon Maples and utility man Mike Freeman as we speculated a couple of weeks back, but the club also acquired veteran center fielder Leonys Martin and cash in the hours before the Aug. 31st deadline in exchange for a PTBNL or cash. That means three 40-man roster spots need to be freed up to accommodate the new arrivals. I will update this post as news of the roster moves comes out.

Martin, once a promising young player for the Texas Rangers, had been demoted to the minors by the Mariners (and off their 40-man roster two different times) after failing to hit even a lick this year (.174/.221/.287). Just 29 years old, Martin still possesses good speed (31/41 SB combined between AAA/MLB) and is still a plus defender in the outfield. He will likely take over the role of pinch runner and defensive replacement that I envisioned Jacob Hannemann filling down the stretch. It is not out of the realm of possibility that Martin can contribute a bit at the plate as well. A career .248/.300/.361 hitter, he has hit .306/.346/.492 with Tacoma this year and is coming off a .247/.306/.378 season with Seattle in 2016.

Mike Freeman will step in as the backup shortstop while Addison Russell remains on the DL with his foot injury. He is a capable pinch runner as well and has experience at every position on the diamond except catcher and pitcher, but with the Cubs possessing so many other options with better track records at the Major League level, I would not expect to see Freeman on the field much except to give Javier Baez the occasional day off.

The player that could have the greatest impact on the club, not just in September but potentially in the playoffs as well, is Dillon Maples. It has been an insane turnaround year for the once-promising turned nearly-forgotten right hander. Maples was actually on the brink of walking away from baseball last season. But thanks to some good work by South Bend pitching coach David Rosario and some encouragement from his father, Maples has come back this season with a vengeance. The key has been the development of a third pitch, that quickly has become his first pitch. In the offseason he developed a slider/cutter that has proven a devastating out pitch, and along with some mechanical tweaks that have unlocked a few extra MPHs on his fastball (now regularly 97-99) without losing any of the hard downward bite, Maples has propelled himself from a shared closer role in High-A ball this April all the way to the Major Leagues.

Once the AAA season ends next week, it is possible that additional players from the squad could join the Cubs but at this point I would not count on it. Any additional reinforcements are more likely to come in the form of players returning from the disabled list (MLB and AAA). Of course, we are all patiently awaiting the returns of Willson Contreras and Addison Russell, but Mark Zagunis and Eddie Butler are also currently out due to injury in Iowa. If they can get healthy in time, both seem logical choices to rejoin the club once they are ready.

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  • Maples!!!!! I am excited to see him throw. Maybe he can be our K Rod for what he did to the Angels during their World Series win. His presence, if he performs now and in '18, allows $$$ to be reallocated for something else with Robson and/or Strop's roles diminished as those two combined make nearly $12M.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Typo from friggen auto correct -Rondon

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I think a 2016 Carl Edwards Jr. impact is far more likely.

    Maples has legit stuff to be a future closer. But like Edwards and Marmol before him it comes down to how often he can throw strikes and how willing MLB hitters will be at chasing pitches out of the zone. We have seen the ups-and-downs Edwards has encountered the past three years. We may see Maples follow a similar path. It would be hugely beneficial to the club if one of these two guys could emerge and take over the closer role in the near future. Would free up tons of financial flexibility and keep the club from having to send out good prospects every deadline to help shore up the pen.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    It allows the flexibility the FO needs to keep this train on the tracks. If those two replace Rondon, Strop, and Davis, then that frees up $24M. So is a Harper offer out of question? Or Machado? You allocate those resources to a player of that caliber, do you then move Schwarber and Russell for a underpriced TOR talent (Archer?)?

    And also the benefit is you don't give up your system for a closer every year.

    Exciting times still. I like to hope these guys can give Theo and Jes some more tools in their box to craft this team.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    How about Jake Arrieta?

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Good question. I just don't trust which Jake we would get over the life of the deal. I'd be more willing to go 3/$100M than 6+/$175M. But if oh are willing to give that kinda deal do you spend the money on Darvish?

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Just throwing it out there.

    I'm honestly not the person to ask about Darvish or really any player not in the Cubs org. I don't spend time watching other teams. Between the Cubs games and then all the minor league games I watch I don't have time to devote to other teams/players.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I've always wondered with Edwards whether his issue is more of not being willing to challenge hitters enough. Game 7 of the World Series was a good example of that IMO. Just pound the zone and don't be quite so cute about which pitch in which count you are throwing. Just feels to me like mentally he is still maturing. It just feels like he tries to nibble sometimes when he doesn't need to or where the situation does not warrant it. Have you ever heard any questions about him along these lines?

  • In reply to Dave Sampsell:

    Maybe, but his walk rates were similar in the minors though. He would not have been particularly concerned with challenging guys then. I think it is more of a mechanical and consistency thing with him. Also, his pitches move a ton. Maples has similar issues. The ball normally doesn't move as much at 98 MPH as it does when Maples throws it.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Indeed - I hope that Maples can do well to close out this season, and he could be a solid and expensive replacement for Strop, Grimm or Rondon in the pen for next season. You're on the mark with that point rbrucato IMO, If I recall - Grimm is now out of options, so he's less useful to keep as the shuttle RP role.

    I've got to assume that some or all of those 3 guys are going to go FA and that the Cubs will let them walk with a hearty thank-you for their contributions to the last few teams.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Strop will be back next year. He is under contract. Rondon/Grimm are entering their final arb year so still under team control, but the club may want to move on from one or both depending on what the arb number is going to look like.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Grimm has two years after this one left. He was a super two.

  • In reply to DirkDiggler:

    ... checks notes... you're right. What I get for answering off the top of my head. His salary is 1.8 this year, so likely 2M+ next year. Not crazy about that figure for Grimm, but it isn't insane. Might depend on how others perform down the stretch or if they decide to try to bring back Davis.

    Rondon was at 5.8 this year. I really can't see them bringing him back on a 7+M one year deal with how he has pitched this year, but for a guy still throwing 97-99 it again is not insane. There is some truth to the "no such thing as a bad one-year contract."

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I totally agree. I think Rondon is more likely to be gone with a roughly $7 million price tag.

    $2-2.3 million for Grimm is money that can be better spent, I think. Especially with him being out of options after this year, and having regressed each year.

    Interested to see how it plays out

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Grimm has had some good runs, especially when he's commanding his curveball well,... but when he's off he's really off not so much. I could see them keeping him around for ~$2 MM if nothing better/cheaper is available.

    And if Rondon is going to cost in the ballpark of ~$8 MM - then yeah, I think they let him walk. He's another guy who's had a history of success, but he's not been great the last year.

    Glad to hear about Pedro - had forgotten his contract situation. At $5.8 MM this year and potentially $6.25 MM next (if not bought out) he's probably worth that money.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Slow down on Maples. He has a long way to go before you consider him a long term answer

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    No, I won't slow down. There is no reason he can't have a nice start to his big league career and then be a major contributor next year. His stuff plays in any level of baseball.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    His stuff has not played at every level of baseball.

  • Does look like I may have jumped the gun on Zastryzny. He may not come until Iowa season ends.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    The Dillon Maples watch is on! With JWilson, Duensing and Zazz soon to be here, can't see Jack Leathersich surviving the 40-man roster. 7 more walks in his last 5 games at Iowa.

  • In reply to NoDoubtAboutIt:

    He may survive simply because the Cubs have less LH depth than they do RH depth heading into next year. They really don't have a LH prospect in the upper minors except Zastryzny. May depend on if they want to bring back Duensing. Monty figures to be in the rotation next year with Wilson filling his late inning role.

    None of Seth Frankoff, Jose Rosario, Pierce Johnson, Jack Leathersich would be huge losses. Rosario has the most upside if healthy, but he is by far the biggest risk due to health and control issues. I honestly wouldn't be shocked if none of them are around come ST.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Frankoff and Rosario DFA

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Rosario was nearly Dillon Maples last year. Began the year in A+ after missing significant time in previous years due to injury. All of a sudden was throwing 95-99 with a good, hard curve. Made it all the way to Iowa but wasn't added to the 40-man roster in the offseason. Things never came together for him this spring though. Velo dropped to low 90s and then massive control problems cropped up. Spent most of season in EXST after a disastrous start in Iowa. Came back to pitch a few games in AZL then elevated to TN and was okay. Control was still spotty but certainly better. Velo never came back all the way. As a guy with a history of arm issues, I wouldn't be shocked to see that they have cropped back up.

  • Mike Freeman on Dillon Maples: "As good as I've seen"

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    OT, but do you think the Cubs are dead set on Otani? Or are they going to drive up the $ so they have cash to sign a big FA in 2017-2018?

  • In reply to Wrigley0923:

    If he is as advertised I don't see why the Cubs and every team wouldn't be all-in on him. He is supposedly the exact type of young starter everyone is clambering for. Plus, I got to think his versatility to also be a hitter is something that Maddon would have fun with.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Thank you for the input. I saw he hit 100mph after coming back. Imo, the Cubs don't need offense. They need another shut down SP for the postseasons. I'm curious if that's why Verlander went to Houston. Or Houston overpaid. Idk.

  • In reply to Wrigley0923:

    I think the Cubs main interest in Verlander was that they could take on the full (or close to it) burden of his salary if it meant they wouldn't have to include prime prospects or a player off their current roster. Detroit was looking for a combo though, some salary relief but also good prospects back. Cubs wouldn't do that and weren't desperate like the Astros who only have two good starters. Cubs have 4 quality starters, 2 of whom (Arrieta and Hendricks) are currently pitching lights out, and 2 more (Lester and Q) that are certainly capable of it.

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    In reply to Wrigley0923:

    While I agree the Cubs don't "need" offense it doesn't hurt. Especially when it doesn't actually cost you a roster spot. Here are a couple of scenarios I can imagine where his "offense" might be useful.

    1. Extra innings game where all the other pinch-hitters of the offense have been used and the team has runners on 2nd and 3rd with 2 out and Maddon is faced with having a relief pitcher get his first career PA OR have Otani bat (even if he doesn't pitch).

    2. A pitcher has absurd platoon splits making having LHB in the line-up a premium. Start Otani starts in RF, Heyward in CF and Schwarber in LF.

    3. I believe rules say that the team MUST have a batter in the on-deck circle. It isn't uncommon for a manager to send up a guy he has NO intention of letting hit (such as Jon Lester/John Lackey). Otani could be a legitimate "threat" to hit in that situation and give the opposing manager something to worry about.

    4. Going back to #2 imagine a RH relief pitcher with big platoon splits. Maddon can "threaten" with Otani as a batter and keep Schwarber in his back pocket for a different situation. The opposing manager might, after Otani is announced, go to a LH relief pitcher. Maddon pulls Otani back and inserts Almora (who usually does well agasint LHP).

    And these are just some examples I thought of off the top of my head. The key is Otani would fill MULTIPLE roles on the team. If you can have one of your starting pitchers be a plausible candidate to bat, even if he almost never does, it frees up another player to be on the roster. Especially given Maddon's propensity to have 8 man bull-pens it makes bench spots VERY valuable (there may be only 4 guys who have to be able to cover all the different defensive positions AND offer RHB/LHB). IF you can have someone fulfill a spot in the rotation AND be able to hit it almost turns into a 26-man roster. There are things that can be maddening about Joe Maddon, but he is the LAST manager another team would want to allow to have an extra guy on the roster. As a friend of mine said, "I am pretty sure his ideas don't/won't work most of the time. But the opposing manager has to devote time/attention/resources into how to counter whatever scheme Maddon comes up with. That is all time/attention/resources that are not spent doing other things." Someone like Otani would fill a similar role to what Zobrist and Bryant's ability to play both infield and OF fulfill. Or the ability of Caratini to play 1B or Contreras ability to play LF. Because they can all cover multiple spots that would normally be covered by 2 individuals each it allows the Cubs to have someone like Tommy La Stella on their roster (he was pretty valuable this past week). Or maybe they have a bullpen arm that another team does not and will possibly have a less over-used bullpen at this point in the season.

    To me THAT is the value of Otani offensively. I don't foresee a role for him where the Cubs treat him like Ruth (Pitch every 5 days, in the OF the rest of the time). But just having that skill can be a HUGE asset.

  • I think I am the only person that had Dillon Maples as a top ten prospect for the Cubs this season. Hope he proves me right.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I would say being on the MLB roster (40-man) already proves you right.

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    I still have hope about Eddie Butler. He's got the stuff and he just needs to control it. I know that we can say that about 99% of ballplayers, but just look at Maples. Something clicked and he's a top prospect and possibly our closer next year.
    I was watching last night at the trade deadline and have to admit that when I heard that Verlander wanted to come here and finally didn't I was disappointed. The Astros gave up a lot and I wonder what we would have to give up, but getting Lester is almost like getting a player at the deadline.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    No chance Maples is a closer for the Cubs next season

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    If they go internal I think Wilson and Edwards get first crack, but by the end of the year Maples could put himself in the picture.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I think next years closer is not currently on the roster. I agree with Wilson getting 1st crack followed by Edwards.

  • I like that they want to keep Zastryzny as stretched out as possible with one last start before joining the club. He is the #7 starter after Montgomery.

    I wondered about Tseng maybe getting the call up but there is not really an opportunity for him to pitch given how tight the race is at this point so relievers are more important/impactful.

  • In reply to Gator:

    Iowa still needs to field a team the next few days too. With Frankoff now unavailable and Brooks already gone, they also lose Grimm and Maples from the pen. They signed Scott Carroll a couple of weeks ago to replace Brooks but without Z they would probably come up short. Probably see someone from TN join the club too just to round out the staff.

    Tseng will get added in the offseason. They don't need him in Sept with Lester and Z healthy. Once roster spots from FAs like Lackey are freed up you will see Alzolay, Tseng, De La Cruz and maybe Clifton added (not sure what to make of his situation at the moment).

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Tseng isn't on the 40-man roster I don't think. So it would mean adding ANOTHER guy to the 40-man roster. And then go with a 7-man rotation might throw the pitchers off. It isn't uncommon to get 5 days off between starts, but 6-8 and it kind of gets them off their rhythm. So we would do all of that for 4-5 starts from our 7th best starter. No, I agree with you, Michael. Tseng will be added in the off-season to protect him from the Rule 5 draft (I believe he has to be protected or may get selected).

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    For those interested, AZ Phil published an exhaustive overview of the entire Rule-5/Minor-league situation earlier today at The Cub Reporter as only AZ Phil can. If you've got questions, AZ Phil has answers. Buckle in, it's a long read, but fascinating stuff for the minor-league baseball nerds amoung us.

  • I pray to the baseball gods that dillon maples can continue to be nasty and seize a bullpen spot for '18 and beyond so rondon or grimm are non tendered this winter.

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