C.J. Riefenhauser has cleared waivers off the 40-man roster and has been optioned to Iowa. This further complicates the Cubs 40-man roster situation, which now just has 37 players on it. Riefenhauser may have pitched his way right off of the roster. In the 12.1 innings he’s pitched in 15 appearances this year, he has a 7.30 ERA. No wonder he cleared waivers.
The Cubs are light on pitching at the minor league level — especially lefties — which is why the team acquired Riefenhauser in the first play. Now, there’s a reasonable chance that the Cubs choose to release the south paw.
So, why are the Cubs leaving these spots open?
Perhaps the least fun and least interesting scenario is that the Cubs are simply opening up these spots for when Dallas Beeler and Aaron Brooks come off the 15-day DL. Beeler’s numbers in the minors haven’t been flashy, but he’s been solid enough to maintain a spot at AAA Iowa the last two seasons. You also might remember his name from the five spot starts he made between 2014 and 2015 for the Cubs — they were rocky and inconsistent, but clearly the Cubs like what they have in Beeler.
Cubs fans may not know the name Aaron Brooks — he quietly came in a trade from Oakland this past offseason. His big league numbers are poor. He had 3-5 record, 8.38 ERA and 1.759 WHIP in 15 outings, ten of which were starts. But he’s been more consistent at the minor league level so it’s reasonable to assume the big righty could hold a spot on the 40-man when he comes off the DL.
Finally, the Cubs keeping the roster at 37 certainly provides flexibility. It gives them the ability to make a trade, explore free agency, or move up a couple of guys from Iowa. Should fans expect that Theo Epstein is about to make a big splash? I don’t think so. But it’s not out of the realm of possibilities.
“There are 30 teams in baseball that are looking for more pitching,” Jed Hoyer said in an interview with WSCR earlier today. “I’m sure that we’ll end up acquiring some more pitching at the deadline and beyond. That’s really an area that we never stop focusing on.”
Expect bigger moves six weeks from now when the deadline is getting closer. For now, fans should watch this roster situation. The Cubs may very well have a trick up their sleeve. Or, they may just be waiting for guys to clear the DL. That’s yet to be seen.