After weeks of swirling rumors, the Cubs finally made a move for a lefty reliever who hails from Cuba. And they didn’t have to give up Javy Baez or Kyle Schwarber to get him. In fact, all they had to do was to create a roster spot by putting Clayton Richard on the DL. In need of a southpaw for the ‘pen, they called Gerardo Concepcion up from AAA Iowa.
Okay, so this doesn’t have quite the cachet as a trade for Aroldis Chapman. Heck, it wasn’t even the most heralded in a flurry of transactions that saw Adam Warren optioned to Iowa to be stretched out as a starter. But adding Concepcion to the big league roster could be about more than just filling a spot for a couple weeks. It’s no secret that the Cubs are seeking to strengthen their bullpen, and the rookie showed promise Tuesday night.
Concepcion came on in the 6th in relief of Jason Hammel and promptly struck out Brandon Moss on six pitches. The new addition then stayed around to pitch a perfect 7th in which he needed only 13 pitches to retire the side, including a three-pitch looking strikeout of Matt Carpenter. Concepcion worked almost exclusively with the fastball and only reached 92 on the gun, but he located well in his 1.1 innings of work.
I’d like to see more of the mid-70’s curve in the future, provided he can continue to throw it close enough to the strike zone to set off the heater. I’m also interested to see whether Concepcion can get said heater closer to the mid-90’s, as he was reportedly starting to do last year. Velo aside, the most important numbers are those opposing hitters put up against him, and it’s hard to find fault with a 1.29 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 35 innings across AA and AAA this season.
Signed by the Cubs in 2012 after defecting from Cuba, Gerardo Concepcion hasn’t had the smoothest path to the Majors. Even considering this season’s stellar numbers, his minor league ERA is 4.80 and he’s allowed 108 walks across 195 innings. The swing-and-miss potential, however, is there as well, evidenced by 158 strikeouts in that same time. Considering how long it can take for a pitcher to really develop, particularly one who’s adjusting to life in the States at the same time.
If he’s able to continue his performance from earlier this season, and Tuesday’s results are a (brief) indication that he can, Concepcion could provide the Cubs with all kinds of leverage. I joke about not having to give up a pair of players who clearly are not on the block, but being able to fill a hole with a product from the farm system is a huge win. And even if he’s not the answer going forward, the Cubs can buy a little more time and decrease their perceived need as they head closer to the trade deadline.
That’s not to say the primary reason for the promotion isn’t due to a legitimate need, just that there are some obvious ancillary benefits to showcasing a lefty reliever at this point in the season.
So what do you think: Is this just a move of pure necessity and convenience or something that’s a part of the Cubs’ bigger strategy moving forward? Talk amongst yourselves. And me, you can share your thoughts with me too.