Walden, 32, opened the season with the Red Sox’ Triple-A affiliate and has seen time in the Majors with Boston in each of the past three seasons. He was a solid middle-inning option for them from 2018-19, piling up 92 2/3 frames of 3.79 ERA ball while striking out 23.3 percent of his opponents against a 9.1 percent walk rate. Walden recorded an excellent 54.3 percent ground-ball rate in that time and averaged 94.2 mph on his sinker in that time.
The 2020 season, however, marked a considerable step in the wrong direction. Walden’s sinker dipped by 1.3 mph, and his ground-ball rate fell to 40.4 percent while his strikeout rate (14.1 percent) and walk rate (12.7 percent) both fell off. That came in a sample of just 13 1/3 innings, during which the righty was tagged for 14 earned runs on 23 hits (five homers) and nine walks with 10 punchouts.
The Red Sox designated Walden for assignment in late February after signing Marwin Gonzalez to a one-year deal, and he remained in the organization via an outright assignment after clearing waivers. He spent the season thus far in Triple-A Worcester, pitching to a 4.01 ERA and posting rate stats that look much more similar to his solid 2018-19 levels: a 20.9 percent strikeout rate, a 9.9 percent walk rate and a huge 57.6 percent ground-ball rate. Boston released him last week.
With the Cubs, Walden ought to have a good chance at working his way to the big leagues before long. Chicago has overhauled its bullpen in the past month, trading Andrew Chafin, Ryan Tepera and Craig Kimbrel prior to the July 30 deadline and more recently designating both Kyle Ryan and Dan Winkler for assignment. The Cubs have very little in the way of established relievers in the ’pen at this point, so a strong showing for Walden in Iowa could earn him a look sooner than later.