The Cubs announced Friday that left-hander Anthony Kay has been designated for assignment in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for first baseman/outfielder Trey Mancini, whose previously reported two-year, $14MM deal is now official. The 27-year-old Kay’s stay in the organization could prove quite brief, as he was only claimed off waivers from the Blue Jays back on Dec. 23.
Kay, whom the Mets originally drafted with the No. 31 overall pick back in 2016, made his way from New York to Toronto by way of the Marcus Stroman trade and has spent parts of four seasons in the Majors with the Jays. He’s struggled in each, compiling a 5.48 ERA with a solid 23.6% strikeout rate but a bloated 11.6% walk rate in that time. Home runs have been a bit of an issue, as he’s yielded 1.27 long balls per nine frames, but he’s also been plagued by a bloated .340 average on balls in play that points to at least some degree of poor fortune. That appears especially true, given that Kay has yielded just an 87.5 mph average exit velocity and a 34.8% hard-hit rate in his career — both comfortably better than the league-average marks over the past few years.
Interestingly, it’s been fellow lefties who’ve tormented Kay to this point in his big league career. Same-handed opponents have crushed Kay to the tune of a .319/.398/638 batting line in 108 career plate appearances, while righties have hit him at a .251/.352/.390 clip. That line from right-handers is still concerning, particularly the OBP aspect, but if Kay were able to shut down lefties like so many other southpaws, he could yet develop into a serviceable bullpen option.
Kay has averaged better than 94 mph on his fastball over the past two seasons and has consistently generated above-average spin on the pitch — but opponents have still batted .301/.409/.526 against it in his career. He’s gotten far better results with his curveball (.186/.239/.326), which was perhaps part of his appeal to the Cubs in the first place.
Kay has one minor league option year remaining and was once a fairly well-regarded pitching prospect, so it’s possible another team will look to bring him into the fold via the waiver wire. The Cubs will have a week to trade him or pass him through outright waivers. If he goes unclaimed, he’ll remain with the organization and likely head to spring training as a non-roster invitee.