The Rule 5 Draft is the annual conclusion to baseball’s Winter Meetings, an unheralded event that deserves more attention from fans. While names like Roberto Clemente, Johan Santana, and Shane Victorino aren’t going to swap teams on a yearly basis, effective players — Cubs fans may recall Hector Rondon! — can change hands, and for that reason alone it’s a worthy endeavor to follow the results. (The rules for player eligibility are a bit tricky and are designed to prevent teams from hoarding prospects without recourse.)
Heading into Thursday, the Cubs had some wiggle room on their 40-man roster, and given their self-imposed budget constraints, selecting a player made sense as they look to structure a roster without actually spending any money. With that in mind, selecting Trevor Megill to buttress a bullpen in the midst of an overhaul made complete sense. Let’s take a quick look at what he brings to the table.
The Repertoire of a Reliever
Megill has a rather imposing physical presence. At 6-foot-8, 235 pounds, he’s the type of right-handed power arm teams covet in late innings — that is, should he couple his potential with effective results. At 26 years old, Megill would be a bit of a late bloomer, but that’s far from uncommon for relief pitchers, and the Cubs Pitching Lab may just have the ability to unlock said potential.
Pitching in the notoriously offensive Pacific Coast League, Megill put up some encouraging peripherals in 2019: a 32.3 percent strikeout rate and an 8.8 percent walk rate belied his 4.47 ERA (3.46 FIP) in 50.1 innings at the minor’s highest level. He sports a mid 90’s fastball that, combined with a recently discovered slider and 12-6 curveball, makes for a nice three-pitch mix. It’ll be interesting to see how the Cubs pitching lab assesses his stuff and what adjustments Megill makes heading into the 2020 season. Regardless, he’s a worthy selection in this year’s Rule 5 draft for a team desperately seeking effective relief arms for the big league squad.
Megill marks yet another under-the-radar move for the Cubs pitching staff along with the additions of Jharel Cotton, Dan Winkler, and CD Pelham. All four names have varying degrees of experience and talent, and it’s clear the Cubs will continue to cast a wide, low-budget net in search of ‘pen reinforcements. This might not be the reality anyone dreamed of, but it’s reality nonetheless.
An Offseason to Forget
For the Cubs, the 2019-20 offseason has been an unmitigated disaster. There are the rumors they are more than willing to trade Kris Bryant or Willson Contreras, which have fans both perplexed and outraged. There’s the Ricketts crying poor while acknowledging Wrigleyville renovations went significantly over budget. There are more than a few murmurings the front office has to shed payroll to sign even low-tier free agents. And, of course, there’s yet another disgusting public relations disaster — this time relating to their handling of disabled persons’ access to Wrigley Field. In short, not much has gone right for a team figuring out how the hell to be relevant in 2020 while adding depth to the farm system for 2022 and beyond.
Despite all of the negative this winter, Megill is an intriguing ‘pen arm. The added 26th man to Major League rosters coupled with Megill bringing the Cubs 40-man roster to 38 players gives the Cubs leeway in determining how to best adjust their major league roster.
Time will tell how he performs as a Cub. Time will also reveal whatever the hell it is the Cubs plans are for this offseason. Maybe, just maybe, optimism can surround this team come February.
Feature Photo: John Moore/Amarillo Sod Poodles