The Cubs have received interest on young right-handers Ben Brown and Hayden Wesneski, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. Rosenthal notes that the club is “not necessarily inclined” to move either youngster, but could become more open to it if they’re successful in adding a veteran starter this offseason. Chicago has been connected to NPB lefty Shota Imanaga on the free agent market and Guardians righty Shane Bieber on the trade market, among others.
Wesneski, 26, was a sixth-round pick by the Yankees in the 2019 draft and was shipped to the Cubs at the 2022 trade deadline in exchange for sidearming right-hander Scott Effross. Wesneski made his MLB debut with the Cubs that September and impressed down the stretch, with a 2.18 ERA and a 25% strikeout rate in 33 innings of work across six appearances. Wesneski went on to win the club’s fifth starter job out of camp in 2023. That decision proved to be an ill-fated one, as he struggled to a 5.09 ERA and 5.90 FIP across eight starts before being demoted to Triple-A. After spending a month in an up-and-down role shuttling between Triple-A and the majors, Wesneski settled into a multi-inning relief role in late June and posted a 3.79 ERA with a 27% strikeout rate across his final 22 appearances (35 2/3 innings).
Brown, 24, has yet to make his major league debut after being acquired from the Phillies in exchange for David Robertson at the same deadline the Cubs landed Wesneski. Upon acquiring Brown, the Cubs immediately promoted him to Double-A where he held his own, with a 4.06 ERA and 32.1% strikeout rate in seven starts down the stretch. Brown returned to the Double-A level for his first four starts of the 2023 season and dominated to a microscopic 0.45 ERA while posting an incredible 39% strikeout rate across 20 innings of work. That success saw Brown earn a promotion to the Triple-A level, where he struggled for the first time in his time with Chicago. While he struck out 31.1% of batters faced, the right-hander’s ERA ballooned to 5.33 in 72 2/3 innings of work as he walked a whopping 15.8% of batters faced. If Brown is able to keep those control issues in check, he figures to be a big league rotation option as soon as next season.
While Wesneski and Brown both come with flaws, it’s hardly a surprise that pitching-needy clubs would be interested in either youngster’s services. After all, controllable starting pitching is among the most sought-after commodities in the league, and a deal with the Cubs involving a lower-level arm like Wesneski or Brown could be more affordable than trading for one of the established regulars who have found their names in the rumor mill this offseason like Marlins lefty Jesus Luzardo or any number of young Mariners right-handers.
More from around MLB’s Central divisions…
- The Royals have gone on something of a spending spree this offseason, adding Michael Wacha and Seth Lugo to their rotation, Chris Stratton and Will Smith in the bullpen, and Hunter Renfroe to their outfield mix. That’s a combined outlay of more than $100MM in guaranteed money, and the additions have left them with a projected payroll of $112MM for the 2024 campaign according to RosterResource. That being said, GM J.J. Picollo indicated to reporters (including Anne Rogers of MLB.com) that the club has likely done most of its heavy lifting for the offseason. Picollo noted that the club “would be content” with the additions they’ve made this offseason if they were to enter Spring Training with their current group of players, though Picollo did note that the club is going to continue to explore ways to strengthen its depth throughout the remainder of the offseason.
- MLB Network’s Jon Morosi indicates that trade talks surrounding Reds second baseman Jonathan India “remain active,” and that multiple teams are engaged with Cincinnati on the infielder. Recent reporting indicated that the club feels no additional urgency to part with India or another member of its crowded infield mix even after adding another bat to the logjam in the form of Jeimer Candelario, who signed with the Reds on a three-year deal earlier this month. The 27-year-old started his career off with a bang by winning the NL Rookie of the Year award back in 2021 but has been an essentially league average bat in the two years since, slashing .246/.333/.394 across 960 trips to the plate since the start of the 2022 campaign.
- The Twins look to be parting ways with a longtime fixture in their front office, as Darren Wolfson of Skor North and Brandon Warne of Access Twins report that vice president Rob Antony will not have his contract renewed by the club when it expires at the end of the current calendar year. Antony first joined the Twins organization back in 1988 and has worked in baseball operations for the club since 1996, including a stint as assistant GM from 2007 to 2021. Antony is perhaps most notable for his brief stint as acting GM of the Twins in 2016, when he bridged the gap between Terry Ryan and Derek Falvey as the club’s head of baseball operations.