The Pirates announced the acquisition of reliever Duane Underwood Jr. from the Cubs. First base prospect Shendrik Apostel will go to Chicago in return. To create 40-man roster space, Pittsburgh designated right-hander Carson Fulmer for assignment.
Underwood, 26, has thrown 36.1 innings out of the Chicago bullpen over the past three seasons. His 5.20 ERA isn’t particularly impressive, but Underwood has shown some promising peripherals. The right-hander has struck out an impressive 27.7% of hitters at the MLB level against a solid 7.7% walk rate. He was at his best last season, racking up strikeouts at a 30.7% clip while walking only 6.8% of batters. The right-hander averages just under 95 MPH on his fastball and also features a curveball and changeup, the latter of which has gotten plenty of whiffs in limited major league action.
Nevertheless, the Cubs designated Underwood for assignment earlier in the week. He never managed to stake a claim to a permanent spot in the Chicago bullpen, thanks largely to persistent trouble keeping the ball in the yard. Underwood is also out of options, meaning he can’t be sent to the minor leagues without being exposed to other teams. That’s less a concern for the rebuilding Pirates than it was for the playoff-hopeful Cubs.
Acquiring Underwood bumps Fulmer from the Pittsburgh roster for the second time in six months. The former eighth overall pick has been claimed off waivers by the Tigers, Pirates (twice) and Orioles going back to last July but hasn’t found a permanent home. Teams clearly remain intrigued by his promise, though. Fulmer has just a 6.34 ERA with poor strikeout (18.9%) and walk (13.9%) numbers over 105 MLB innings. Like Underwood, he is out of options. Any acquiring team must therefore keep him on the active roster or else again offer him to other clubs.
In exchange for Underwood, the Cubs pick up Apostel, a 20-year-old first baseman who signed with the Pirates out of Curacao. He had a .252/.381/.463 line in the Dominican Summer League between 2018-19. His older brother Sherten Apostel also originally signed with the Pirates and made his MLB debut last season with the Rangers.