The Cubs informed reporters that pitchers Anthony Kay and Manuel Rodríguez have each gone unclaimed on waivers (via Meghan Montemurro of the Chicago Tribune). Both players have been sent outright to Triple-A Iowa. It’s the first outright assignment for both, meaning they’ll each stay in the organization but won’t occupy a spot on the 40-man roster.
Kay’s stay on the Chicago 40-man lasted only a few weeks. The Cubs nabbed the southpaw off waivers from the Blue Jays just before Christmas but designated him for assignment last Friday after signing Trey Mancini. The moves allow them to roll the dice on a former first-round pick without dedicating a roster spot. Kay has pitched briefly at the MLB level with Toronto in each of the last four seasons. He’s only managed a 5.48 ERA through 70 2/3 career innings, plagued both by an 11.4% walk percentage and a hefty .340 batting average on balls in play against him.
The 27-year-old has shown some swing-and-miss upside amidst his early struggles. He owns a solid 23.5% strikeout percentage during his MLB time, generating whiffs on a reasonable 10.4% of his offerings. Kay has an almost identical 23.6% strikeout rate over parts of four minor league campaigns.
Rodríguez, 26, has spent his entire career with the Cubs but was designated for assignment a week ago after Chicago claimed Julian Merryweather. He nabbed a spot on the 40-man roster over the 2019-20 offseason and reached the MLB level a little over a year thereafter. The righty has pitched out of David Ross’ bullpen in each of the last two seasons. He’s worked 31 1/3 innings across 34 total appearances, posting a 4.88 ERA. That has come with concerning strikeout and walk rates (17.5% and 15%, respectively), but the sinkerballer has generated grounders at a quality 53.2% clip.
Owner of a fastball that sits in the 96-97 MPH range, Rodríguez offers an intriguing power arm the Cubs will retain at the upper levels. The native of Mexico has a 4.51 ERA through 145 2/3 minor league innings. He’s struggled to throw strikes at the lower levels as well, though he’s been far more effective in the minors at missing bats (career 31.4% strikeout percentage).
Given their respective MLB experience, Kay and Rodríguez both look likely to secure non-roster invitations to Spring Training in a few weeks. If they don’t crack the roster out of camp, they’ll each open the year as depth options in Iowa. Both players would qualify for minor league free agency at the end of next season if they’re not added back to the 40-man roster before the end of the year.