In the midst of setting up their rotation and determining which 25 players would comprise the NLDS roster, the Cubs still managed to make a personnel move. It was announced Wednesday afternoon that they had claimed righty Luke Farrell off waivers from the Reds. In order to make room on the 40-man roster, they designated Felix Pena for assignment.
At first blush this seems like a pretty frivolous transaction. Selected by the Royals in the sixth round of the 2013 draft out of Northwestern, Farrell is probably most notable for being the son of Red Sox manager John Farrell. Oh, he’s also the brother of Cubs area scout Shane Farrell. The 26-year-old starter has compiled a career minor-league ERA of 5.54 to go with a 6.08 FIP and 6.95 xFIP, though he has had a pretty interesting season outside of the numbers.
Farrell rose through the KC’s system and eventually made his MLB debut on July 1, 2017. He was called up as the 26th man to start the first game of a doubleheader, was optioned back down the next day, and was DFA’d three weeks later. The Dodgers traded for him on July 28, then the Reds claimed him on August 9 and called up him up two weeks after that.
Interestingly enough, Farrell’s second MLB appearance came against the Cubs when he pitched three scoreless innings of relief after Asher Wojciechowski imploded for seven earned runs in under four innings. He bookended his Reds tenure with another scoreless inning in Chicago on the last day of the season. Now he joins the organization he so thoroughly dominated in those two outings.
I’ll be honest here, I don’t know much about Farrell and I am not going to pretend to have combed through all the data on him. He wasn’t listed among KC’s top 20 prospects heading into the season, though FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen offered a few interesting tidbits in his evaluation.
Big (6-foot-6), smart (Northwestern), tough (has dealt with multiple tumors that required complicated biopsies) with good baseball bloodlines (his father is John Farrell), Luke’s fastball sits 90-92 with downhill plane, he has an average cutter and fringe curveball. He projects as an up-and-down arm without quite enough stuff to crack a full-time rotation spot, though you could argue his pitches have more projection than most 25-year-olds because of the developmental time he missed dealing with his health issues.
It was a little surprising to see Pena as the casualty of the move, but the team obviously didn’t see the need to keep him on the 40-man this winter and beyond. A big strikeout guy in the minors, he could never really harness his stuff in the bigs and ended up missing the zone while also finding too many barrels. Not much there to really bank on long-term.
This may well end up amounting to nothing in terms of the Cubs and their future, just like most of these moves. But who knows, maybe it pays dividends somehow. Either way, it’s pretty cool to see how this front office is always making moves.