The Cubs have agreed to a minor league pact with free-agent right-hander Eric Yardley, per the team’s official transactions log. The former Padres and Brewers hurler, a client of CAA Baseball, was placed on outright waivers in late October and opted to become a minor league free agent after going unclaimed.
Yardley, 31, is a submariner with a massive ground-ball rate. He had some success in fairly brief stints with the Padres and Brewers in 2019-20 before being roughed up with Milwaukee this past season. In 35 innings from 2019-20, Yardley notched a 1.80 ERA (with a much larger 4.13 SIERA) and a sky-high 62.3% grounder rate. His 17.4% strikeout rate in that stretch was well below the league average, however, and Yardley’s 8.7% walk rate was solid but unspectacular.
In 2021, however, Yardley’s 87 mph sinker and 73 mph slider weren’t fooling opponents. His 3.8% swinging-strike rate was the lowest mark of any pitcher in MLB with at least 10 innings thrown, as was his 5.6% strikeout rate. Yardley still recorded a huge 58.6% ground-ball rate in 18 2/3 innings, but he also allowed three homers (1.45 HR/9) and allowed more free bases (ten walks, three hit batters) than strikeouts recorded (five).
All but three of Yardley’s 507 professional appearances have come in relief, so he’ll give the Cubs some bullpen depth to stash in Triple-A Iowa if he doesn’t win a roster spot this spring. He’s spent parts of five prior seasons at the Triple-A level, pitching to a 3.17 ERA in 184 1/3 innings with a 17.8% strikeout rate, a 5.7% walk rate and an excellent 60% ground-ball rate. Yardley has a pair of minor league options remaining, so if the Cubs add him to the big league roster at any point, they’ll be able to shuttle him between Iowa and Chicago without needing to pass him through waivers.