Cubs deal for another relief pitcher


With a day to go before the MLB trade deadline, the Cubs have added another pitcher into the mix.

Tuesday afternoon, the Cubs acquired veteran right-handed pitcher David Phelps in exchange for pitching prospect Thomas Hatch.

Phelps, 32, is in his seventh MLB season and carries a 3.63 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 9.3 K/9 in 17 appearances with the Toronto Blue Jays. 

He was just activated in mid-June after undergoing Tommy John surgery in March 2018.

Over his career, Phelps has been a valuable swingman for the Blue Jays, Mariners, Marlins and Yankees. He's made 65 starts and 180 relief appearances in that time with a 3.88 ERA and nearly a strikeout an inning (538 whiffs in 571 frames). 

He was really good in 2016-17 before the elbow injury, going 11-11 with a 2.72 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 176 strikeouts in 142.1 innings working mostly as a reliever in Miami and Seattle.

Phelps just gave up 3 earned runs in his last appearance in Toronto, but prior to that, he carried a 2.16 ERA and was allowing only a .190 batting average and .615 OPS. Over his career, he's been slightly better against right-handed hitters than lefties.

Hatch, meanwhile, was the Cubs' third-round pick in 2016, but he has yet to pitch above Double-A. He turns 25 in September and has struggled this season in his second stint in Tennessee (4.59 ERA, 1.41 WHIP). 

Phelps figures to slot into the Cubs bullpen later in the week, possibly as soon as Wednesday. Pedro Strop just hit the injured list and the Cubs called up Duane Underwood Jr. as another arm Tuesday, so Phelps probably takes Underwood's spot in the bullpen in St. Louis in the coming days.

There is certainly some risk and concern surrounding Phelps, as to be expected with a guy so recently removed from Tommy John surgery. His fastball and sinker velocity is more than 2 mph down from where it was when he was last healthy in 2017 and he's been giving up hard contact at a career worst rate. He's also seen a precipitous dip in groundball percentage and swings-and-misses and has generally been outperforming his peripheral numbers, indicating he's been a bit lucky to date.

But as he continues to regain his form and find his feel again post-surgery, he could emerge as a valuable option out of the Cubs bullpen.

Phelps also has a club option for 2020, so he could conceivably be a part of the Cubs bullpen next year, too.

If Phelps is able to regain his status as a high-leverage reliever, the Cubs relief corps down the stretch could look like this once Pedro Strop returns from injury:

Craig KImbrel
Steve Cishek
Brandon Kintzler
Kyle Ryan
Pedro Strop
David Phelps
Derek Holland

Plus, Rowan Wick looks to have ascended into the circle of trust and veteran Brad Brach has a long track record of success even though his first year with the Cubs has not gone according to plan. Then there's Tyler Chatwood and Carl Edwards Jr. who could figure into the mix plus Adbert Alzolay, Alec Mills, Duane Underwood Jr., Dillon Maples, Randy Rosario, James Norwood and Tim Collins, who have all spent some time in the big leagues so far this season.

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