The Cubs have re-signed right-hander Ethan Roberts on a minor league deal, according to the transactions log on Roberts’s MLB.com player page. The deal presumably includes an invite to big league Spring Training.
Roberts, 26, missed the entire 2023 campaign after undergoing Tommy John surgery in June of 2022. Chicago’s fourth-round pick from the 2018 draft made just nine appearances in the big leagues before going under the knife, struggling to an 8.22 ERA and 8.59 FIP during that time. The injury-plagued start to his big league career belies Roberts’ strong track record in the minor leagues. The 2019 campaign was Roberts’ first full professional season, and he impressed with a sparkling 2.59 ERA in 59 innings split between the Single-A and High-A levels. Roberts did not pitch in 2022 due to the cancelled minor league season, but returned to his prior dominance in 2021 as he posted a 3.00 ERA with a 32.6% strikeout rate in 54 innings of work split between the Double-A and Triple-A levels that season.
Strong as those minor league numbers were, Roberts’ non-existent big league track record and lengthy absence from the mound in recent years led the Cubs to non-tender him prior to last month’s tender deadline. Looking ahead to 2024, Roberts is expected to have a normal offseason this winter and be ready for camp come the spring, when the righty could look to compete for a spot in the club’s Opening Day bullpen. Adbert Alzolay, Julian Merryweather, and Mark Leiter Jr. all appear to be locks for Chicago’s relief corps next season after strong 2023 campaigns, leaving Roberts to join the likes of Keegan Thompson, Jose Cuas and Daniel Palencia in a battle for one of the club’s remaining bullpen spots.