Cubs lefty Sean Newcomb went unclaimed on waivers following last week’s DFA and has been assigned outright to Triple-A Iowa, the team announced to reporters (Twitter link via Maddie Lee of the Chicago Sun-Times).
As Lee points out, Newcomb has up to 48 hours to determine whether he’ll accept or reject the assignment — as is the right of any player with more than three years of Major League service time. However, a player needs five years of big league service to reject an outright assignment while still retaining the remainder of their salary in a given season. Newcomb entered the season with 3.123 years of Major League service and has since crossed the threshold into four-plus years, but he’s still well shy of five years. In other words, rejecting the assignment would mean forgoing what’s left of this season’s $900K salary, which he agreed to in order to avoid arbitration with the Braves over the winter.
Atlanta flipped Newcomb to the Cubs in a trade that sent veteran reliever Jesse Chavez back to the Braves. It’s a move that’s panned out brilliantly for the Braves, who have enjoyed 22 2/3 innings of 2.38 ERA ball from Chavez. Newcomb, meanwhile, has seen his longstanding struggles persist even following what many believed might be a necessary change of scenery. In 4 1/3 big league innings with the Cubs, he’s been tagged for eight runs on nine hits and two walks with four strikeouts. He’s also yielded six runs (five earned) in 4 2/3 frames with Chicago’s top minor league affiliate in Iowa.
It’s easy enough to see why the swap might’ve appealed to the Cubs. Newcomb is a former top prospect who’s had plenty of success from 2017-19 before falling into a decline beginning in the shortened 2020 season. He came to them with two years of club control remaining beyond the current campaign. Chavez, meanwhile, had only signed as a minor league free agent following the lockout and will become a free agent at season’s end.
Things simply haven’t panned out with Newcomb to this point, although assuming he indeed accepts his outright assignment, he’ll have the opportunity to get back on track in Triple-A over the remainder of the season. If he’s added back to the 40-man roster before season’s end, the Cubs will still be able to control his 2023-24 rights via arbitration. If not, however, Newcomb will become a free agent at the end of the season — as is customary for players with three-plus years of service who have been outrighted (and not returned to the 40-man) during the regular season.