The Cubs have signed free-agent lefty Brian Matusz to a minor league contract, reports Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (via Twitter). The longtime Orioles southpaw was recently traded from Baltimore to Atlanta alongside a Competitive Balance Draft Pick in a salary dump deal. The Braves immediately designated Matusz for assignment upon making the deal and released him shortly thereafter.
The 29-year-old Matusz missed significant time with an intercostal strain this season and has struggled when healthy enough to take the mound. He’s surrendered eight runs in six innings while allowing 11 hits and seven walks with just one strikeout. Those unsightly numbers aside, Matusz has a solid track record in the bullpen, where he posted a combined 3.32 ERA with 9.4 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9 in 151 2/3 innings from 2013-15. In that time he faced 333 lefties and held them to a miserable .190/.245/.320 batting line with a 100-to-17 K/BB ratio.
While off-hand comparisons to Orioles-castoff-turned-Cubs-ace Jake Arrieta are probably unavoidable, there’s not much of a parallel here, as Matusz has already been cast aside by a second team and already has enough service time to become a free agent at season’s end, whereas Arrieta was acquired in a trade with four and a half years of club control remaining. Matusz, however, will be stretched out as a starter with Triple-A Iowa, according to MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko, so it appears he’ll at least be presented with an opportunity to show that he has some rotation upside remaining. Of course, the Cubs don’t have a spot in their rotation that is open at the moment — Arrieta, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Kyle Hendricks and Jason Hammel have all pitched to a 3.05 ERA or better — but Matusz could be a depth piece in the event of an injury to one of those five or a safety net should Clayton Richard’s recent struggles in the bullpen persist.