Admit it, you did a double-take when you read that. I don’t blame you, I did too. No, the 2008 Rookie of the Year didn’t change his position, his handedness, and the spelling of his first name, though that would be on some mad stealth isht. The Soto in this case is a lefty reliever who was selected by the Tigers in the 21st round of the 2009 draft and has spent the last several seasons matriculating through the minors.
He’s spent the last six years in the Indians organization after being included in the 2010 trade for Jhonny Peralta and finally saw all 3.1 innings with the big club this past season. The Cubs were able to acquire Soto for cash considerations after Cleveland DFA’d him, after which he was optioned to AAA Iowa. In a corresponding move, Kyle Schwarber was moved to the 60-day DL to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.
So was this a miscue by the folks from the Mistake on the Lake? Theo Epstein does seem to have a nose for unearthing gems from other teams’ dung heaps, after all. At first glance, Soto seems to have put up some really nice ERA and FIP stats over the past couple seasons, but his control might be an issue. While he’s never posted more than 3.94 BB/9 at AA and below, the southpaw walked 4.86 per 9 innings in 53.2 innings at AAA in 2015.
There was also a God-awful 9.35 BB/9 at AAA in 2013, but that came in only 8.2 innings. Still, woof.
At this point, the move provides little more than ancillary organizational depth. The Cubs already have Travis Wood and Clayton Richard, both of whom have appreciably more experience that Gio Soto Part Deux. Then again, the 24-year-old has made 62 minor league starts and you can never have too many left-handed relievers around. This was an inexpensive insurance policy, which is nice. As with most other insurance, though, having to actually use it means there’s something wrong.
If nothing else, I think this was worth it for the sheer novelty of having Giovanni Soto back in the Cubs organization. Sort of.
And if you’re down for some S’s and G’s, have a look at the responses to the Cubs’ announcement of the deal on Twitter. The immediate string of “welcome back” tweets is glorious.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 11, 2016