The Cubs made a number of roster moves this afternoon, in part to make room for Mark Leiter Jr., whose addition to the roster was reported earlier. Leiter Jr. is starting today’s ballgame for the Cubbies. To make room on the active roster for Leiter Jr., first baseman Alfonso Rivas was optioned to Iowa. In other moves, Locke St. John was added to the 40-man roster and sent to Triple-A. Cory Abbott and Greg Deichmann were both designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man for St. John and Leiter Jr., respectively, per the Athletic’s Sahadev Sharma (via Twitter).
The Cubs are not long on starting pitching, hence Leiter Jr. getting the call so early in the year. They could have simply turned to Abbott, who made his big league debut last season in seven appearances (one start), but they instead chose to risk losing Abbott on waivers. The 2-year-old Abbott made 19 starts in Triple-A last year, putting up a 5.91 ERA over 96 innings.
Leiter Jr.’s opportunity in the Majors might not be long, however, as the Cubs could see some starters return from the injured list soon. Wade Miley three 15 pitches off the mound today, and Alec Mills, out with an injured back, is scheduled to throw a bullpen session later today, per MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian (via Twitter). Both players will make their season debut when they return.
Deichmann was one of two players acquired last season from the A’s in the Andrew Chafin deal. Even at the time, Deichmann was an older prospect, but there was at least some hope that in an emptied outfield, the southpaw swinger might see some run. Deichmann made just 30 plate appearances with the Cubs last season, however, mostly as a pinch-hitter.
Fangraphs placed the outfielder/first baseman as the 22nd-ranked prospect in the Cubs’ system coming into the season, so it’s a tad surprising to see the Cubs expose him to waivers. Furthermore, Fangraphs had Abbott, a former second round pick, as the 26th-ranked prospect in the Cubs’ system, so they’re exposing two somewhat interesting players to waivers. A deal could still be worked out, and given the roster crunches all around baseball, it would not be surprising if one or both cleared waivers outright.
Besides, there’s lots of smoke and mirrors in prospect pedigree, and the Cubs’ system has not been all that highly regarded in recent years. For what it’s worth, neither Abbott nor Deichmann landed in the top-30 Cubs’ prospect by measure of MLB.com, and only Abbott made Baseball America’s list, coming in at number 23.
As for St. John, the Cubs signed the 29-year-old lefty as a free agent in November. His only time in the Majors came in 2019, when he made seven appearances for the Rangers. Last season, he tossed 58 1/3 innings for the Tigers’ Triple club in Toledo, posting a solid 2.58 ERA with a 29.2 percent strikeout rate.