Chicago Cubs: Could Colin Rea be a potential surprise with the Cubs?

(Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images) /

Right-handed pitcher Colin Rea agreed to a minor league contract with the Chicago Cubs Monday and while it’s not exactly a Bryce Harper-like move, it’s something to ponder.

For those who have no idea who Colin Rea is – heck I had to give him a Google search, too – he was once a top-10 prospect in the San Diego Padres minor league farm system. In 2015, he posted fantastic numbers in Double-A – an impressive 1.08 ERA and 2.35 FIP through 12 starts with a 3.9 percent walk rate and a 49.5 percent ground ball rate – with a mix of his fastball, cutter and curveball. Oh, and he’s the newest member of the Chicago Cubs. 

The Friars traded him to the Miami Marlins in 2016, but things went awry and he was returned to the Padres after San Diego attempted to keep medical information on him private. Due to Tommy John surgery, his name lost value and he hasn’t performed well since his return from injury last season.

In 2018,  he made 18 appearances between Double-A and Triple-A. In six starts in Double-A, he posted a 7.13 ERA and 5.08 FIP with a 11.1 percent walk rate and 38 percent ground ball rate. He didn’t fare much better in Triple-A posting a 5.08 ERA and 5.97 FIP in nine starts and three relief appearances. However, his ground ball rate did increase to 43.3 percent, which is near his 2015 percentage (46.3 percent).

What does he mean to the Cubs?

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I suppose the Cubs could see him as a possible reliever down the road. If the rotation can’t stay healthy he could be called up for a spot start if he performs well after his first offseason where he didn’t have to rehab. That said, the Cubs’ rotational depth is not a problem on their list.

They’ve yet to really address their bullpen this offseason, so, while this is no big move it’s an attempt at adding talent to their system that doesn’t have a lot of top 100 talent.

Barring any kind of surprise at Spring Training, I would not be surprised if we didn’t see him called up until the middle of the season or Sept. 1 if he can perform as he did in 2015.

An organizational history of success at play

Reclamation projects have worked out for the Cubs as we all know with Jake Arrieta. Aside from the injury history, the two share similar numbers before Arrieta came to the Cubs in 2013.

They both were highly regarded prospects, but, unfortunately for them were not able to flourish. Both struggled to a point where teams were forced to move on.

In Arrieta’s last season with Baltimore, he finished with a 6.20 ERA. As stated above, Rea struggled in his comeback with the Padres and never really put it together outside of 2015. In 19 starts before undergoing Tommy John surgery, Rea posted a 4.82 ERA and 4.63 FIP. Those numbers don’t jump out to anyone.

This isn’t to say Rea is going to break out like Arrieta did because he’s coming to the Cubs. The odds are not in the Cubs’ favor but the front office scouts had to see something, right? In his last 20 innings, Rea posted 1.23 ERA with 23 strikeouts and 10 walks.

Fortunately, for Rea, the Cubs don’t need him on Opening Day. It will be interesting to see how he performs whether it’s in Tennessee or Iowa to start the season. Every good team has a guy who comes to the show and surprises everyone. Maybe Rea is that for the Cubs in 2019. I will not bet on that.

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This all said, if these types of moves are going to highlight the Chicago Cubs offseason, especially with Cubs Convention approaching next week, it’s not only annoying but scary. The wait continues.