Cubs DFA Matt Swarmer, Option Mark Leiter Jr, Select Steven Brault from Iowa

In a move that screams roster crunch, the Cubs have DFA’d Matt Swarmer, optioned Mark Leiter Jr., and selected Steven Brault from Iowa.

Swarmer had an opportunity as a starter earlier in the season and looked a bit rough doing so, yielding 16 earned runs over 31.2 innings pitched. He settled down a bit once he moved to the bullpen, giving up just three earned runs over 9.1 IP. If anything, it could’ve made sense for the Cubs to give him some time in Iowa as a reliever to see if he could build on his results from Chicago. Instead, he’s getting DFA’d with the very real possibility that he gets picked up by another team off of waivers.

You may recall that Steven Brault was originally going to get signed by the Cubs in March to a major league deal but it was converted to a minor league deal after a physical revealed a triceps injury. Brault has a career 4.77 ERA in his time with the Pirates but had a 3.38 ERA in 11 appearances in 2020, so perhaps the Cubs have found something that tells them he has the stuff to be an effective bullpen piece for the team.

As for Leiter, I’m personally a little surprised the Cubs decided to stick with him rather than Swarmer, particularly since Leiter is three years old than Swarmer at 31. Their numbers are fairly similar (5.35 ERA for Leiter vs. 5.03 ERA for Swarmer) although Leiter does have a higher ground ball rate (48.1% vs. 35.1%). Leiter also has a 5.00 FIP compared to 7.00 for Swarmer. And it’s not likely that either of these guys is on the 40-man roster beyond this season, so perhaps this is more about timing than anything.

Additionally, Anderson Espinoza has been added today as the Cubs’ 27th man for the doubleheader.

Here’s the official press release from the Cubs:

CHICAGO – The Chicago Cubs today selected left-handed pitcher Steven Brault and optioned right-handed pitcher Mark Leiter Jr. to Triple-A Iowa. To make room on the 40-man roster for Brault, right-handed pitcher Matt Swarmer has been designated for assignment.

Additionally, right-handed pitcher Anderson Espinoza has been added as the team’s “27th man” in advance of today’s split doubleheader against the New York Mets at Wrigley Field.

Brault will wear uniform number 25 and is available for today’s doubleheader.

Brault, 30, signed a minor league contract with Chicago in March and missed the first three months of the season with a left triceps strain. He was activated from Iowa’s 60-day injured list July 4 and made three scoreless relief appearances, totaling 3.2 innings with four hits allowed, three walks and four strikeouts.

The six-foot tall Brault is 12-18 with a 4.77 ERA (182 ER/343.1 IP) and one save in 107 career major league games (52 starts), all with the Pittsburgh Pirates from 2016-21. The left-handed pitcher has held left-handed hitters to a career .232 average (71-for-306) with 74 strikeouts.

A La Mesa, Calif., native, Brault played three seasons at Regis University in Denver before he was selected in the 11th round of the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft by Baltimore. Brault was acquired by Pittsburgh in February 2015 as the player to be named in the deal which sent left-handed pitcher Steven Tarpley to Pittsburgh for outfielder Travis Snider.

Espinoza, 24, has made two relief appearances for Chicago including his big-league debut in the nightcap of the May 30 doubleheader against Milwaukee, allowing two runs in 4.0 innings. He pitched 3.0 innings of relief, allowing one run, July 10 in Los Angeles against the Dodgers.

Espinoza on June 28 with Tennessee threw 5.0 shutout innings with one walk and seven strikeouts as part of a combined no-hitter against Rocket City. He has pitched in 13 games (12 starts) for Tennessee this season.

The six-foot tall Espinoza has posted a career 4.15 ERA (124 ER/269.0 IP) in 73 minor league games (71 starts) in the Red Sox (2015-16), Padres (2016-21) and Cubs (2021-22) organizations. He was acquired from the Padres, July 30, 2021 for OF Jake Marisnick.

Leiter, 31, is 2-4 with a 5.35 ERA (23 ER/38.2 IP) in 14 games (four starts) for Chicago, his first season with the Cubs.

Swarmer, 28, made his major league debut this season with the Cubs and is 2-3 with a 5.03 ERA (19 ER/34.0 IP) in 11 games (five starts) for Chicago.

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