The Cubs have agreed to a minor league deal with lefty Matt Dermody, bringing him back to the organization after a year in Japan with the Seibu Lions. Dermody’s last MLB action came with the Cubs in 2020, when he made one scoreless appearance and had a strikeout in his lone inning of work, but prior to that he’d spent seven seasons in the Blue Jays organization with two brief MLB stints.
Mainly a sinker-slider guy who throws a lot of strikes, Dermody needs to be very sharp when it comes to missing bats and/or getting grounders. He’s mainly done that in the minors, though he’s allowed seven homers in 26.1 total MLB innings. He struggled to strike batters out in NPB last year, racking up just 48 Ks across 57.2 innings (7.49 K/9) for the Lions and their top minor league affiliate.
Most of those strikeouts (26) came in the minors, which means Dermody punched out just 22 batters in 33.1 NPB innings (5.94 K/9). He also handed out free passes at an 8.6% clip, nearly twice the rate he has put up stateside. The big caveat here is that he was being used in a multi-inning capacity, accumulating those innings in just 11 relief appearances. Perhaps more situational usage would have polished up the stats a wee bit.
One other aspect of this that might be worth keeping an eye on is that the 31-year-old displayed much higher velocity for the Cubs than he had previously. His 94.5 mph fastball up well over two ticks from his previous marks, though that could be nothing more than small-sample aberration. He also threw a lot of changeups instead of sinkers, which could again be a total fluke.
But what if Dermody was working on some repertoire changes in Japan, getting used to different pitch design and sequencing? That could help to explain the numbers to some extent. If he’s truly able to maintain a mid-90s fastball with a change and slider that keep hitters guessing, and if he’s deployed strategically, he could end up pitching solid innings.
Regardless, this is another of those depth moves the Cubs have always made this time of year even when there’s not a lockout forcing them to limit their transactions. Lacking a wealth of surefire lefty relief options, it makes sense that they’d try to beef up that part of the system ahead of camp.