The Braves optioned lefty Sean Newcomb back to their alternate training site just two days after recalling him, per a club announcement. His roster spot goes to Touki Toussaint, who is up from the alternate site to start tonight’s game against the Orioles.
It seems increasingly likely that the 27-year-old Newcomb isn’t in the team’s plans for the remainder of this season. The southpaw was clobbered for 17 runs in just 13 2/3 innings across four starts earlier this season and sent to the alternate site to try to right the ship. He didn’t get into a game in his most recent return to the roster, however, and Newcomb will now be required to spend 10 days at the alternate site unless he’s recalled to replace a teammate who is being placed on the injured list. That minimum optional assignment will take him nearly through season’s end.
Just two years ago, Newcomb looked to have established himself as a mainstay on the Braves’ staff. He followed a respectable rookie showing in 2017 with 164 frames of 3.90 ERA ball and nearly a strikeout per inning in 2018. The Braves moved him to the bullpen in 2019 after some early struggles as a starter, and he responded to that role quite well, posting a 3.04 ERA with 9.6 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9 through 51 outings.
With Newcomb headed back to the team’s alternate site now, it’s fair to question whether he’ll pitch for the team again in 2020. At this point, it looks like he’ll fall a bit shy of reaching three years of service time, which he’d need to reach arbitration eligibility. While Newcomb would technically have the service time needed to qualify as a Super Two player, that status also requires a player to have spent 86 days on the active roster or injured list in a conventional season. That comes out to a prorated 31 days in this year’s shortened schedule, but Newcomb was optioned out less than three weeks into the season and only picked up two additional days of service in this most recent stint.
If he indeed remains in pre-arbitration status, then perhaps the Braves will keep him around and hope for better results next year. There’d be little harm in doing so, and Newcomb will have a minor league option remaining even after being optioned in 2020. That said, his standing within the organization certainly looks to have tumbled over the past couple seasons as he’s been leapfrogged by several younger arms. He’ll likely have to earn his way back into the mix next spring, and it’s not hard to imagine other clubs inquiring on the former top prospect as a change of scenery candidate this winter.