The Cubs announced Monday that left-hander Sean Newcomb has been designated for assignment. His spot on the roster will go to fellow southpaw Eric Stout, whose contract has been selected from Triple-A Iowa. Stout will be making his first big league appearance since 2018 if he gets into a game.
Chicago acquired Newcomb from the Braves in April, sending veteran righty Jesse Chavez back to Atlanta in the process. It was a buy-low bounceback flier for the North Siders, but the move didn’t pan out. Newcomb could make just three appearances before spraining his left ankle and missing three weeks. He returned to the active roster yesterday, but the Yankees teed off on him for five runs on six hits in just one inning of work. In the wake of that rough outing, the Cubs have decided to move on, joining the Braves in designating him for assignment this season.
It’s been a few seasons of struggles for Newcomb, who was also hit hard over three outings with Atlanta in April. He posted just a 4.73 ERA through 32 1/3 frames last year, largely negating a quality 28.7% strikeout rate by walking an unacceptable 18% of batters faced. The former first-round pick had been hit hard during four starts in the shortened 2020 season as well, so he hasn’t found a sustained run of MLB success since 2019.
Nevertheless, Newcomb caught the attention of the Cubs based on his early-career form. He threw 68 1/3 innings of 3.16 ERA ball three years ago, showing much better control and inducing grounders on nearly half the batted balls he allowed. While his strike-throwing has become particularly erratic in recent years, Newcomb continues to throw in the mid-90s and drew praise from prospect evaluators for his breaking stuff.
Newcomb is out of minor league option years, so the Cubs had to either keep him in the majors or take him off the 40-man roster. Now that they’ve chosen the latter course of action, they’ll have a week to deal him again or try to run him through waivers. Newcomb is making $900K this season, certainly not an exorbitant sum but a bit more than the league minimum salary.
Stout is a Chicago-area native who’s in line for his first MLB action in four years. His previous experience at the highest level consists of just three games with the 2018 Royals. A Butler University product, he’s spent parts of five seasons in Triple-A. Stout owns a modest 4.93 ERA over that time, but he’s sporting a 3.94 mark in 29 2/3 frames with Iowa this year.
This has been an atypical season for Stout, who was a pitch-to-contact control artist for much of his early professional career. Over the past couple seasons, though, he’s seen a dramatic spike in both his strikeouts and walks. Those trends have reached new heights this year, as he’s fanned an incredible 36.6% of batters faced in Iowa but also doled out free passes at a nearly 17% clip. That’s something of a similar profile to Newcomb, but Stout still has a pair of options remaining and can move on and off the active roster.