A day after clearing outright waivers, right-handed reliever Shae Simmons has rejected an assignment to the Cubs’ Triple-A affiliate and instead elected free agency, as Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune tweets.
Simmons hasn’t been previously outrighted but does have more than three years of MLB service time (much of it spent on the MLB disabled list), which affords him the right to pass on an outright assignment and again test the open market. The Cubs ran Simmons throughout waivers in hopes of creating some roster flexibility, it seems, as they didn’t announce any form of corresponding move along with his outright, and their 40-man roster remains at 39 players.
Now 27 years of age, Simmons is a ways removed from an impressive rookie campaign with the Braves back in 2014. The former 22nd-round pick was never considered an elite prospect but debuted to toss 21 2/3 innings of 2.91 ERA ball with a 23-to-11 K/BB ratio, just one homer allowed and 52.8 percent ground-ball rate. At the very least, Simmons looked to have earned himself a bullpen gig for the following season — and potentially for years to come — but he required offseason Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2015 season.
Upon returning in 2016, Simmons tossed 25 innings between the Majors and minors, generally faring well along the way. He was traded alongside Mallex Smith to the Mariners in a deal that netted the Braves pitching prospect Luiz Gohara, and he went on to spend most of the 2017 season on the 60-day DL in Seattle with a flexor strain.
The Cubs still saw enough in Simmons that they signed him to a split Major League deal this winter and placed him on the 40-man roster, but the righty has struggled to this point in the year down in Iowa. Through 22 2/3 innings, Simmons had logged a 5.56 ERA with as many walks as strikeouts (21 apiece). While his 50.8 percent ground-ball rate and the one homer he’d allowed were both encouraging signs, Simmons’ lack of control proved too detrimental to overcome. Simmons was still averaging 96 mph on his heater with the Mariners in 2017, and he can still miss bats and generate grounders, so it seems likely that another team will take a chance on him as long as he’s healthy (barring a reunion with the Cubs on a new minor league deal).