The Cubs have released right-hander Colin Rea, according to the MLB.com transactions page. Rea avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $702.5K deal with Chicago on December 2 (the day of the non-tender deadline), but he will now look to sign a new contract with a Japanese team, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian tweets.
The 30-year-old Rea tossed 14 innings for the Cubs last season, posting a 5.79 ERA, 16.1% strikeout rate and a very solid 3.2% walk rate. Rea started two of his nine outings but was much more effective as a reliever, as seven of Rea’s nine earned runs allowed in 2020 came during his 5 1/3 innings as a starter. It’s probably safe to assume he’ll look to rebuild his stock as a starting pitcher in Japan, as the bulk of Rea’s pro experience (161 of 203 games) in the majors and minors as come as a starter.
Those 14 innings for Chicago represented Rea’s first MLB action since 2016, as he spent the previous two seasons in the minors with the Cubs and Padres and missed all of 2017 recovering from Tommy John surgery. Rea’s arm problems stand out as a major what-if for Padres fans, as a seven-player trade in July 2016 that originally sent Rea to the Marlins was partially reversed since Miami felt Rea was already injured at the time of the swap, so Rea was returned to San Diego and the Padres sent another pitcher involved in the deal back to the Marlins — that pitcher was future Reds ace Luis Castillo.
With Rea gone, the Cubs are short another starting candidate as they prepare to roll out an overhauled rotation in 2021. Free agent departures and the trade of Yu Darvish to the Padres will set Chicago up with a projected rotation of Kyle Hendricks, Zach Davies, Adbert Alzolay, Alec Mills, and a host of young candidates vying for the fifth spot. It seems likely that the team will add another veteran to the mix, though probably someone on a minor league deal or on a low-cost MLB contract.