July 17: The Cubs announced to reporters, including Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune, that they have selected the contract of right-hander Erich Uelmen. Lefty Daniel Norris has been designated for assignment in a corresponding move.
Norris, 29, was considered one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball during his time with the Blue Jays. Baseball America ranked him one of the top 100 prospects in the sport in 2012 and again in 2015. He moved to Detroit as part of the package that resulted in David Price going to Toronto, with the Tigers surely hoping that Norris could be a building block in their rotation for years to come.
Unfortunately, Norris couldn’t make the best of the opportunity, registering an ERA north of 5.00 in both 2017 and 2018, followed by a 4.49 in 2019. A move to the bullpen in 2020 seemed to unlock a new gear for him, however, as he put up a 3.25 ERA with a 24.1% strikeout rate, 6% walk rate and 55.7% ground ball rate. The next year, his ERA shot up to 5.89 as a Tiger, though his peripherals were still encouraging enough for the Brewers to take a shot on him, acquiring him in a deadline deal. Things went in the wrong direction, though, as his ERA as a Brewer was 6.64, eventually getting left of the club’s postseason roster.
The rebuilding Cubs took a flier on him for this year, surely hoping that he could right the ship enough to turn himself into a trade candidate. But 2022 has been yet another setback for the southpaw, as he has a 6.90 ERA as a Cub. His 32.1% strikeout rate on the season is very encouraging, but it’s come with a 15.7% walk rate, almost double the 8.3% league average. The Cubs will now have one week to trade him, pass him through waivers or release him. As a veteran with more than five years of MLB service time, Norris can reject an outright assignment without forfeiting any salary.
Uelmen, 26, was a fourth round pick of the Cubs in 2017. He was primarily a starter on his way up but switched to a full-time bullpen role upon reaching Triple-A. His first taste of action with the Iowa Cubs didn’t go so well last year, but he’s having an excellent showing here in 2022, working in a multi-inning role. Through 42 frames in 28 games, he has a 2.79 ERA, 55.3% ground ball rate and 29.1% strikeout rate, though the walk rate is high at 12.8%. He’ll now get a shot to see if he can translate any of that into the big leagues, making his MLB debut as soon as he gets into a game.