Cubs claim Julian Merryweather, designated Manuel Rodriguez

Cubs claim Julian Merryweather, designated Manuel Rodriguez

The Cubs have claimed the right-hander Julian Merryweather off the Blue Jays’ waivers, he reports Meghan Montemurro of the Chicago Tribune. Merryweather had been designated for assignment by the Jays last week. In a corresponding move, partner right Manuel Rodríguez has been designated for assignment.

Merryweather, 31, was drafted by Cleveland but went to the Blue Jays in the 2018 trade that saw Josh Donaldson go another way He has pitched in each of the last three MLB seasons, showing elite velocity on his fastball, which has averaged 96-98 mph in each of those campaigns.

Despite this blistering speed, Merryweather has not fared well so far. He struck out 27.3% of the batters he faced in 2020, but saw that number drop to 21.8% and 19.3% over the past two seasons. That coincided with an increase in his ERA, going from 4.15 to 4.85 and 6.75 in the most recent season. In addition to these struggles, health is a constant concern. Although he pitched over 40 innings in 2022, the previous four years saw him go under 20 frames.

Merryweather has been much better in the minors, including throwing 14 1/3 scoreless innings in Triple-A last year with a 32.7 percent strikeout rate. However, he is now out of options and the Cubs will need to keep him on their active roster or else send him back into DFA limbo. If they can help him turn his great velocity into better results, they can keep him around for many seasons through arbitration, as Merryweather has just over two years of MLB service.

By adding a flamethrower, the Cubs risk losing another. Rodriguez, 26, averaged 97.2 kilometers per hour in his water in 2021 and 95.9 kilometers per hour last year. But like Merryweather, he hasn’t turned it into punchouts, striking out just 17.1 percent of batters faced in 31 1/3 major league innings thus far. He’s hit ground balls at a solid 53.2% clip, but he’s also walked 15% of the batters he’s faced.

The Cubs will now have one week to trade Rodriguez or waive him. He still has an option year and just over a year of service left. Given his youth and powerful speed, he could find interest from other clubs looking for some pitching depth.

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