The Cubs announced that they’ve signed left-handed reliever Dario Alvarez to a Major League contract. Alvarez was designated for assignment and outrighted by the Rangers back in September and hit the open market at season’s end.
Alvarez, 29 in January, has seen Major League time in each of the past four seasons, tossing a combined 48 innings with the Mets, Braves and Rangers. In that time, he’s logged an unsightly 5.06 ERA with a more-promising 11.4 K/9 mark against 4.1 BB/9. He’s coming off a season in which he posted a sub-3.00 in the Majors (albeit with 14 walks in 16 1/3 innings) as well as in Triple-A and has a lengthy track record of intriguing strikeout rates at the minor league level.
Alvarez is out of minor league options, so he’ll have to either break camp with the big league roster or be exposed to waivers in order to be sent to Triple-A. Of course, it shouldn’t simply be assumed that he’ll be handed a job in the Chicago bullpen. Left-handed relief is an area of need for the Cubs (particularly after Justin Wilson’s struggles in Chicago), and it seems likely that they’ll pursue higher-profile options than Alvarez over the remainder of the season. Even if they don’t pick up additional lefties, though, Alvarez would likely compete with Rob Zastryzny for a spot as a third lefty in the bullpen next spring.
Due to his limited big league track record, Alvarez has only amassed one year and 66 days of Major League service time to this point in his career. If he ends up making a strong impression for the Cubs, Alvarez can potentially be controlled all the way through the 2022 season, and he won’t even be eligible for arbitration until the conclusion of the 2019 campaign at the very earliest.
For the Cubs, the signing of Alvarez isn’t entirely dissimilar to last winter’s acquisition of Brian Duensing. It was somewhat surprising to see Duensing land a 40-man roster spot coming off a down season with the Orioles, but the Cubs locked him up fairly early with a modest big league deal and were handsomely rewarded for their show of faith. While Alvarez comes with a considerably more limited track record than Duensing had, he’s a similarly surprising recipient of a 40-man roster spot.