The Cubs have agreed to a one-year, Major League deal with right-hander Trevor Williams, Evan Altman of Cubs Insider reports (Twitter link). The contract will become official once Williams passes a physical. Williams will earn roughly $2.5MM, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, and Altman notes that some portion of Williams’ salary is likely to be deferred.
After spending all five of his MLB seasons in a Pirates uniform, Williams will remain in the NL Central and now look to win a job at the back of Chicago’s rotation. Kyle Hendricks, Zach Davies, Adbert Alzolay, and Alec Mills are lined up for the first four starting spots, though only Hendricks and Davies truly have their spots locked up. Kohl Stewart was also recently signed to a big league contract, Shelby Miller to a minors deal, and at least one more arm is on the way, as ESPN’s Jesse Rogers tweets that the Cubs are expected more pitching before Spring Training opens.
Williams opted to become a free agent rather than accept an outright assignment from the Pirates back in November, with the Bucs’ move essentially acting as an early non-tender — Williams was projected to earn between $3.2MM and $4.6MM in his second year of arbitration eligibility, and the Cubs control him through 2022 via that third arbitration year. The righty received a fair amount of interest on the open market despite some rough numbers in 2020.
Williams posted a 6.18 ERA and only a 19.4 strikeout percentage (ranking in the 25th percentile of all pitchers) over 55 1/3 innings. The home run problems that plagued Williams in 2019 worsened last season, as he allowed a league-high 15 homers. Both the home run increase and a marked uptick in hard contact allowed has led to struggles for Williams since the start of the 2019 season.
During the 2017-18 seasons, however, Williams looked like a durable young pitcher on the rise, as he had a 3.56 ERA over 321 innings in Pittsburgh’s rotation. Williams kept hitters off-balance despite a lack of a blazing fastball or big strikeout numbers, though since his SIERA was over a run higher than his 3.56 ERA, there might have been some good fortune involved.
Williams (who turns 29 in April) does have a solid track record when it comes to eating innings, which will certainly be valuable on a Cubs staff that may be juggling multiple arms at the back of the rotation. Alzolay, Mills, and Stewart have only 215 1/3 combined big league innings on their resume.