On Friday, just hours prior to their tilt with the Washington Nationals, the Chicago Cubs added an extra layer of depth to their bullpen. After signing two right-handed relievers in the days leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, the Cubs inked veteran left-hander Jorge De La Rosa to a major league contract.
The move comes just 10 days after the Arizona Diamondbacks designed De La Rosa for assignment. At 37 years of age, the southpaw has been in the league since 2004 and was a valuable member of the Colorado Rockies’ pitching staff as recent as 2015 when he posted a 1.7 WAR.
More recently, however, De La Rosa has fallen on hard times in Arizona, recording ERA’s north of four, including his 4.63 mark over 35 innings before his DFA at the end of July.
Despite his rough-looking numbers, the Cubs were attracted to De La Rosa due to his abilities to get left-handed batters out. For his career, the veteran has held left-handers to a .226/.308/.344 slash line. To go along with that, De La Rosa owns a 23.8 percent strikeout rate against left-handed batters and a 9.7 percent walk rate, numbers that are both better than his 17.7 and 10.6 percent marks when facing right-handed batters.
Even with his struggles this season, De La Rosa has continued his dominance of left-handed batters, limiting them to a mere .210/.309/.407 slash line while at the same time logging a strikeout rate of 24.3 percent and holding them to a .238 BABIP. On the flip side of things, the southpaw has been lit up by righties this season as he is sporting a 6.27 FIP, 11.4 percent strikeout rate and 12.5 percent walk rate when facing those hitters.
To make room for De La Rosa on the 40-man roster, the Cubs moved injured starter Yu Darvish to the 60-day DL. This move does not mean Darvish had a set-back during the rehabilitation process, but rather the fact that the right-hander has already missed 69 games and will likely miss a few more weeks.
To open up a spot for De La Rosa on the active roster, the Cubs had to once again option fellow left-hander Randy Rosario to Triple-A. Prior to this season, Rosario had very little experience at the big league level, working 2.1 innings for the Minnesota Twins in 2017. That lack of experience, however, has not stopped Rosario from having a productive 2018 campaign. Over 33 innings of work, the southpaw owns a 3.00 ERA and very solid 88.4 percent left-on-base percentage.
Despite those numbers, Rosario is due for regression at any time. Currently, the youngster is sporting a 5.58 FIP due to his lackluster strikeout rate (14.8 percent) and elevated walk rate (13.4 percent).
This Move Makes Sense
With Mike Montgomery working out of the starting rotation in Darvish’s stead and Brian Duensing on the DL, the Cubs were reduced to two left-handed relievers in the bullpen: Rosario and Justin Wilson. While both of those relievers were holding left-handed hitters to batting averages south of .200 this season, neither were likely to be trusted in a big, game-on-the-line-type situation during the stretch run. De La Rosa, while not overly versed in postseason play, has been around the league long enough to be trusted, at least in part, in those situations moving forward.
In addition to his prowess against left-handed batters, De La Rosa has the ability to make spot starts should the need arise. Over the course of his career, the left-hander has made 413 appearances with 241 of them being starts. His most recent experience in a big league rotation came in 2016 with the Rockies when De La Rosa made 24 starts before moving to the bullpen full-time starting in 2017.
Almost two weeks removed from the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, this is exactly the type of move many expected to see the Cubs make. Now, it’s up to De La Rosa to pitch well and play his part in helping the Cubs reach yet another postseason.
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