The Cubs have agreed to a contract with left-hander Edwin Escobar, according to reporter Luis Enrique Morales (X link). The details of the deal are not currently known, though Escobar has updated his personal Instagram page to reflect his new team.
Escobar, 32 in April, was a consensus top-100 prospect prior to the 2014 season. After making his professional debut in the Rangers organization, Escobar spent several years with the Giants before being swapped to the Red Sox in the deal that sent Jake Peavy to San Francisco at the 2014 trade deadline. Escobar made his MLB debut with Boston later that year, allowing one run on one hit and a hit batter while striking out two and walking none. After spending the 2015 season in the minors, Escobar resurfaced with the Diamondbacks in 2016 and struggled badly with a 7.23 ERA and 5.93 FIP in 23 2/3 innings of work.
While Escobar was claimed off waivers by Cleveland early in the 2016-17 offseason, he was released later that same offseason to pursue opportunities overseas. Since then, Escobar has spent seven seasons in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, pitching for the Yokohama Bay Stars and Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. In that time, he’s logged 395 appearances overseas with a 3.17 ERA and a 23.3% strikeout rate in 392 1/3 innings of work. Since the start of the 2019 season, he’s been even more impressive with a 2.71 ERA and a 24% strikeout rate.
Now, Escobar is set to return to stateside ball for the first time since the 2016 season. He’ll do so with a Cubs team that’s in clear need of bullpen upgrades; Chicago’s relief corps was middle-of-the-pack last season in terms of ERA (3.85), FIP (4.05), and fWAR (4.4) while posting the league’s second-highest walk rate (11%).
Adbert Alzolay performed respectably as the Cubs’ closer. It’s certainly feasible that right-handers Mark Leiter Jr. and Julian Merryweather will be able to contribute once again in 2024, but the club’s bullpen has little certainty beyond those provisional top three arms, particularly if Javier Assad’s services are required in the starting rotation). Escobar also provides the club with some needed left-handed depth, after Brandon Hughes was non-tendered last week.