Workman, 32, signed a one-year, $1MM contract with the Cubs late in the offseason. The contract came with an additional $2MM of available incentives for the former Red Sox closer, but his stint with the Cubs looks to be coming to a close after just eight innings.
Workman was hit hard in that brief time, surrendering six runs on a dozen hits (two homers) and seven walks with 11 strikeouts. It’s the second consecutive rough year for the hard-throwing righty, who was clobbered for a 5.95 ERA in 19 2/3 frames between the Red Sox and Phillies last summer.
Setting aside his disappointing work in 2020-21, Workman was a solid late-inning option for Boston from 2017-19. During that time he gave the BoSox 152 2/3 innings of 2.59 ERA ball while striking out just under 29 percent of the hitters he faced. Workman led the Red Sox with 16 saves in 2019 and finished second among Boston relievers with 71 2/3 innings — all while striking out more than 36 percent of his opponents.
Workman’s average fastball has dipped by more than a mile per hour since that brilliant 2019 campaign, dropping from 93.1 mph to 91.8 mph. He’s still registered a respectable swinging-strike rate since 2020 (10.7 percent), but Workman has yielded far too much hard contact and seen his already pedestrian walk rate spike to egregious levels in recent years.
The Cubs will have a week to trade Workman, try to pass him through waivers or simply release him. Based on his track record, he should land with another club if he does hit the market, but that may well have to come on a non-guaranteed pact. Offseason interest in the righty was tepid enough, after all, that he inked the aforementioned one-year, $1MM guarantee. It’s hard to imagine that a lackluster showing with the Cubs has done any favors for his stock. Still, Workman’s dominant 2019 season is a testament to his raw ability, and other clubs around the league surely have their own ideas about how to once again coax that type of performance from him.
As for the 25-year-old Steele, he made his big league debut earlier this year and rattled off 3 1/3 innings of shutout ball. Baseball America tabs him as the organization’s No. 22 prospect, characterizing him as a potential hard-throwing reliever with some command issues. Steele was a starter throughout his minor league career, but the Cubs are looking at him in the ’pen after he was rocked for a 5.59 ERA through 11 starts in a pitcher-friendly setting at Double-A in 2019.