Chicago Cubs: Rowan Wick has solidified his spot on roster

(Photo by David Banks/ Getty Images)
(Photo by David Banks/ Getty Images) /

Rowan Wick has pitched too well for the Chicago Cubs to send him back to Triple-A and should have a solidified spot on the team’s roster.

The Chicago Cubs have experienced their fair share of bullpen woes this season. And while the group is full of good arms, one has stood out among the rest lately: Rowan Wick.

Wick, whom the Cubs acquired from the San Diego Padres in a lowkey trade on Nov. 20, 2018, has bounced back-and-forth between Triple-A Iowa and the Cubs this season. No matter where he’s pitched, though, he’s been more than reliable.

Following his outing on Friday against the Milwaukee Brewers, the 26-year-old right-hander holds a 2.25 ERA in 11 outings, striking out 13 batters in 12 innings. He’s been even better with Iowa, holding a 1.80 ERA in 27 games (35 innings), striking out 44 batters compared to a measly nine walks.

Wick’s Triple-A success led to the Cubs promoting him again on July 22, and since returning to the big leagues, he’s pitched six-straight scoreless outings. His success on the mound has earned him a place in Joe Maddon’s circle of trust, with the Cubs manager calling his number is several key moments over the weekend.

Take Saturday, for example; the Brewers scored a pair of runs in the eighth inning to knot the score at 2-2. With the go-ahead run on second, Wick came on and struck out Eric Thames, ending the Brewers’ threat. Although the Cubs eventually lost the game in extra innings, Wick came up huge.

Wick also retired the St. Louis Cardinals in order on Tuesday recording a pair of strikeouts as the Cubs were clinging to a 2-0 lead.

Yeah, that’ll do. Except now, the Cubs have an interesting decision to make ahead of their next game.

Cole Hamels will be activated from the 10-day injured list (left oblique strain) on Saturday to start against the Brewers. Someone will have to be sent out to make space for Hamels on the active roster.

Wick and left-hander Kyle Ryan are the only Cubs relievers with minor league options remaining. Ryan has been excellent this season — 3.02 ERA, 49 games — and is one of two Cubs lefties in the bullpen, along with Derek Holland. Ryan, therefore, is going nowhere.

With how Wick has pitched, though, there should be no possibility of the Cubs demoting him back to Iowa. Team president Theo Epstein preached over the offseason that the Cubs would emphasize results over pedigree in 2019.

Amid the Cubs recent trade deadline acquisitions, Maddon said that it’s “big boy time” and he can’t worry about getting players at-bats for the sake of development over those who give the team the best chance to win.

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Although Maddon was talking specifically about Cubs position players due to the group’s versatility, the mindset should be the same with pitchers.

Just Wednesday, the Cubs dealt embattled reliever Carl Edwards Jr. to the San Diego Padres. Rather than continue putting Edwards into games in hopes of him turning a corner, the Cubs moved on from him.

While it’s true that Edwards needed a change of scenery, the Cubs likely wouldn’t have brought him back from Triple-A until September. So, when it comes to Wick, the Cubs can’t afford to send him down just because he’s a reliever with options.

Therefore, someone else will have to lose their roster spot instead of Wick. The Cubs could send a position player to Iowa to clear a space for Hamels, but if they don’t want to carry 14 pitchers, Brad Brach seems to be the odd man out.

Brach joined the Cubs on a one-year, $3 million deal (with a mutual 2020 option) in February, though it’s been a tough going for him this season. The 33-year-old holds a 6.13 ERA in 42 outings and has pitched just eight times since July.

Maddon has used Brach when the Chicago Cubs are trailing or when high-leverage arms (Brandon Kintzler, Steve Cishek, etc.) aren’t available. Wick has been the more valuable pitcher to the Cubs.

It might be a tough decision to make, but designating Brach for assignment is the wisest one to make. Perhaps he will clear waivers, allowing the Cubs to stash him in Iowa until active rosters expand to 40 in September.

Next. Winter should provide Cubs with roster clarity. dark

If another team claims Brach on waivers, the Cubs still have other relievers waiting in the wings, should they need one. It might be unfair to Brach, but the Chicago Cubs can’t hang onto him just because they signed him in free agency. Wick has earned his place with the team, and he’s the best option for the Cubs right now.