Cubs make first roster cuts and a minor trade

Donnie Dewees

Donnie Dewees

Amidst the first round of cuts from Major League camp, the Cubs also made a surprising trade, re-acquiring former 2nd round pick Donnie Dewees from the Royals in exchange for 2015 8th round pick Stephen Ridings. Now 25, Dewees has spent the past two years in the Royals system at AA and AAA after the Cubs sent him to the organization for RHP Alec Mills.

After a tremendous draft season with North Florida where he was one of the top hitters in all of college ball, Dewees put up solid, but unspectacular numbers his first year and a half in the Cubs system. With a far below average arm (a 30 on the 20-80 scale) Dewees is a stretch in CF despite good range. He is a good contact hitter with gap power, but he has not managed to replicate the high batting averages he put up in college. His best production came in 2016 when he hit .284/.338/.416 in a season split between South Bend and Myrtle Beach. Given his limited defensive profile, Dewees was going to need to hit his way into Major League consideration and thus far has shown no signs he is capable of taking that next step.

He will now compete with Jacob Hannemann, Evan Marzilli, Charcer Burks, Jose Cardona, Connor Myers and Wynton Bernard to fill out the Iowa and Tennessee outfields. The Cubs lack true outfield prospects in the upper levels so Dewees gives them another option, with perhaps a touch more upside. Mark Zagunis and Johnny Field will be the main options in the corners for Iowa, with Trent Giambrone and expected to see some time out there as they groom him for a utility role. The situation in Tennessee is less certain. Eddy Martinez will return to start in right, but the rest is up in the air, although expect to see Jared Young take some reps in LF throughout the year. D.J. Wilson and Kevonte Mitchell are coming off injury-marred and relatively unsuccessful seasons at Myrtle Beach and may not be ready to open 2019 at Tennessee, which is why the extra depth is helpful.

Ridings was always expected to be a long-term project as a 6'8" 220 righty. He battled major control issues his first pro season in 2017, but showed some positive signs of a turnaround with Eugene in 2018. His stuff is pretty average, but much like Dakota Mekkes he pushes hard off the mound in an effort to close the distance to the batter before releasing the ball in an effort to help his stuff play up.

Cubs move out 15 players from Major League camp

There were no surprises among the first round of cuts. The Cubs optioned four pitchers: Jen-Ho Tseng and Adbert Alzolay to AAA, and then Justin Steele and Oscar de la Cruz to AA. They also sent 10 non-roster invites to Minor League camp:

  • RHPs Duncan Robinson, Colin Rea, Craig Brooks, Carlos Ramirez
  • LHPs Ian Clarkin, Alberto Baldonado
  • OFs Jacob Hannemann, Evan Marzilli, Charcer Burks
  • C Ian Rice

The club also announced they have released RHP Rob Scahill, who had been in camp on a Minor League deal. The Cubs have a ton of other arms on similar deals that they seemingly have limited room for in Iowa so expect to see a few more names to join Scahill by next Wednesday.

The Cubs still have 54 player in MLB camp.


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  • Pretty much a meaningless trade, but I'm wondering why the Cubs would even make it? Is it possible they see something in Dewees they think they can fix?

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Possible. They liked him enough to draft him high and now re-acquire him. They obviously see something. Considering how weak the Cubs are in the OF at AA and AAA it's a reasonable gamble.

  • Michael, why wouldn't Jared Young primarily be used in LF this year? Especially with the lack of OF depth in the system. I'm hoping for him to finish this year in Iowa.
    Assuming his bat continues to play out, as it has.

  • In reply to cubbustible:

    He only had a handful of games of experience in the OF. Last year was the first time he had ever played there if I remember correctly. They already had him learning one new position last year (1B) and probably didn't want to stress him too much in one season. I expect they will ramp up his opportunities there this year, but keep in mind he also needs reps at 1B to be able to learn that spot.

  • Glad Dewees is back in the system. There are many former Cubs prospects who randomly pop into my mind about once a year who I feel compelled to check progress on. Dewees was one of them, but now he’ll occasionally pop into these updates and I won’t have to remember.

  • Michael, how do you see the bullpen situation shaping up? I'm worried about the lack of quality left-handed pitching especially if Cedeno is sidelined. On the other hand, Maples and Mekkes are both looking sharp, although in very limited sample size.

  • In reply to October:

    I see Strop, Edwards, Brach, Cishek, Monty as the locks. Chatwood has done enough, considering his contract, that he is a virtual lock. That's six. Final two spots are most likely Kintzler and Duensing, but remember Morrow will be back in May, and someone will have to go so Kintzler and Duensing's contracts are not protection the way Chatwood's is. So since one is likely to be gone in May anyway, the Cubs may choose to let one go before the season and instead go with a pitcher like Maples (for Kintzler) or Cedeno/Ryan/Rosario (for Duensing) who has an option and can be sent down once Morrow is ready.

    The guy who could make matters interesting is Allen Webster. He is pitching so well he could force his way into the picture. The tricky thing with him is that if they do re-add him to the roster he is going to be out of options do he'll have to stick.

    I'm honestly not sure how it will play out. I can see both Kintzler and Duensing on the OD roster or neither.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Thanks, Michael. I hope Edwards and Chatwood keep throwing strikes.

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    The DeWees thing sounds to me like a "flyer" type situation. He has power and speed. He has the ability to make contact and the ability to draw a BB. Probably destined for a career AA/AAA player and get a coupld dozen games in the majors as a pinch-runner or something like that. We'll just sit back and watch.

    Of course it is possible that the Cubs think he might be worth something. Then again, it isn't like they traded a top-tier prospect for him.

  • On a side note how about Nico hoerner. 2-2 with a 2B and a HR so much for that lack of power to go along with a walk and hbp. Hes batting over .800 this spring with an absolutely absurd 2+ OPS. Small sample but this kid looks like he’s chasing Amaya to be the consensus top prospect in this system. Remember when people were freaking out because draft analysts were lower on him then
    Theo? Glad Theo is the one calling the shots

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    He is the top prospect... According to me.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Yup you’ve been on him from the start Michael and great work overall keeping us informed on the teams prospects. It’s hard to ever replace John but to me cubs den still has by far the best minor league content anywhere. Like you I also expect hoerner to rise up these rankings he just hits whenever he seeks to get his shot to play. Let’s hope he carries this into the season and climbs the minor leagues quickly as I expect

  • In reply to kkhiavi:


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    It seems to me that Hoerner could be the next Happ, or even replace Happ eventually.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Hoerner more likely to fill the role Javy did as the starting 2B/backup SS. So more of a replacement for Russell (now that Javy has taken over as primary SS).

    I could see Baez-Hoerner starting up the middle with Descalso and Bote as the backups next year (Happ providing part-time IF help too). Short and Giambrone available in AAA for further depth.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Exactly what my thoughts were. The Cubs need some productive/young/cheap starters to be able to extend their window. Bryant/Baez/Rizzo/Schwarber/Hayward/Hendricks/ are going to be EXPENSIVE in a couple years. Bryant and Baez will likely be $25-30M AAV with Hayward already there. If they do t develop some prospects, they will end up having to trade some major assets to bring in some high-upside prospects.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I wouldn't be too quick to assume that Russell will be out of the picture. I still think that there is a very strong likelihood that we will see Russell at Short and Baez at second by the middle of the year.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Regardless of the off-field issues, Russell will be due about 6M next year in his second-to-last arbitration year. Considering the Cubs depth in the MI, the Cubs can re-allocate that money elsewhere. Russell will continue to be a trade or non-tender candidate next offseason.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    The best we can all hope for is that Russell becomes a better man/citizen and an even better ballplayer. If he actually has a good season, then the value is there to move him and clear that $6+M in payroll and get something of value and need in return. I’m very impressed with Hoerner’s first impression last season, and 2nd impression this spring (although I put very little stock in spring training), but it leaves me hopeful that Nico is somebody who can quickly transition into our starting lineup by 2020, if not by September 2019, or maybe even a little earlier, if Russell isn’t earning his keep.

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    What you said Cubber,.... If Russell can start to put his act together off the field, and can actually be productive on the field, then he's got some value on a trade market. The Cubs have some other good options to cover 2B if Baez moves somewhat permanently to SS, and a SS like Russell 'could' be (again) will find somewhere to play in MLB.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    If Russell is a productive player you would want to pay him 6 million a year . Re-allocate other money but this would be a steal if he is good.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    No. He’s all but done as a Cub. Formalities at this point. As soon as they can get trade value, he’s gone with the 1st offer.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    You might be right. But then again you might be wrong.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Interesting. It's possible that a tentative deal is already in place, waiting for Russell to complete his "treatment" and his suspension (timing is everything). OTOH, the Cubs may have committed to Addy that they won't trade him if he complies with the program. We'll see.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Well, I’m not so sure they’re necessarily even shopping him at this point. At least publicly. He may be here the rest of the year because nobody wants him. I am saying if they get an offer, he’s gone. In a NY minute. Beyond that, he’s here but not for the long haul,only for the contractual obligation at a maximum.

    I don’t think the Cubs told him they won’t trade him. They don’t owe him that. Beyond that, he’s not long for the Cubs... that’s all I’m really saying.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    What are you basing he is done as a Cub? If he was done they would have dropped him already. I think they want him long term.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    “... all but done...” is what I said.

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    In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    For me I look at Happ on the infield as an emergency measure. Imaine late in an extra-inning game the only guy Maddon has on the bench is Schwarber to PH. So he uses Schwarber for that and, in a double-switch, removes the 2B and puts the pitcher in that spot in the order. Then Happ moves from LF to 2B. Something like that. I don't see Happ as a starting 2B, even as a back-up giving an occasional day off to the starter. But even that ability to do that in a double-switch type situation like I gave above has real value.

  • I liked Dewees last time we had him.

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