Prior to Opening Day, Cubs prospect Robert Whitenack was designated for assignment to make room on the 40 man roster for Alberto Gonzalez. A drop in velocity and lack of command coming off of Tommy John surgery was a reason why Whitenack was the odd man out when it came to roster management. Based on his success in 2011, the Cubs front office was probably hoping that Whitenack would clear waivers and be returned to their minor league system. Unfortunately the Indians ruined those plans, as they plucked the righty from waivers on Wednesday. The claim required the Indians to place Whitenack on their 40 man roster. That means that Cleveland could very well designate him for assignment sometime this year if they need space on their roster and his return to form continues to be slow.
Mar 7, 2013; Mesa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Robert Whitenack (67) pitches during the eighth inning against the Chicago White Sox at HoHoKam Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
While Whitenack may not have the hype of a starting pitcher drafted in the first round, the product out of New York was on his way to potentially being a middle of the rotation starter before injury hit. Therefore losing him to the Indians is a bit of a loss, especially for a Cubs minor league system that continues to lag in pitching compared to some of the position player names we have heard (ie Javier Baez and Jorge Soler). Theo Epstein has publically confirmed that they need to address the lack of talent depth on the mound in the system and they will be looking to address that weakness in this June’s draft. Do not rule out the Cubs putting in a claim if Whitenack is placed on waivers again. In the mean time, the loss of the righty to Cleveland can almost be viewed as a trade for Hector Rondon, whom the Cubs took from the Indians in the Rule 5 draft. As part of the requirements to hang onto Rule 5 draft picks, Rondon took up a spot on the 25 man roster (and thus the 40 man roster). Combined with the late Darwin Barney injury, the result was the DFA of Whitenack strictly because of the numbers game.