Chicago Cubs find bullpen depth from unlikely place

The Cubs just signed a pitcher who played in the World Baseball Classic at the age of 16
China v Brazil - World Baseball Classic First Round Group A
China v Brazil - World Baseball Classic First Round Group A / Adam Pretty/GettyImages

The Chicago Cubs have reportedly signed 28-year-old pitcher Daniel Missaki, a Brazilian-born player who most recently played with the Diablo Rojos in the Mexican League.

It's an intriguing move that could provide some depth to a Cubs bullpen that has already taken a major blow with the loss of set-up man Julian Merryweather. Since Merryweather went down in early April, former closer Adbert Alzolay has struggled mightily in the ninth inning, having already surpassed his blown save mark from last year (3) in the first month of 2024. If the bullpen takes another hit via injury or poor performance, perhaps Nissaki can eventually slide in and try to prove himself in MLB again.

After a record appearance in the World Baseball Classic in 2013, where Nissaki played at the age of just 16 years old, he signed with the Seattle Mariners the following year. He was then traded to the Milwaukee Brewers alongside Freddy Peralta before missing significant time due to two Tommy John surgeries. He never made his MLB debut and eventually found himself playing in Japan, Brazil, and most recently, Mexico after healing from his injuries.

The Chicago Cubs continue to take an outside-of-the-box approach to adding pitching depth.

From his performances in Mexico this year, it seems like Missaki utilizes a cutter and splitter as out pitches. Over 44.2 innings pitched with the Colombian Winter League and the Mexican League, Missaki has a 1.30 ERA with 52 strikeouts.

The Cubs are no strangers to looking for diamonds in the rough to contribute as big-league relievers. In fact, their most reliable reliever right now is Mark Leiter Jr., who the team signed to a minor league deal prior to the 2023 season before he emerged as a weapon out of the bullpen. Leiter collected 28 holds with a 3.50 ERA last year and he has continued the trend and been stellar in 2024 so far. It's a similar story for Julian Merryweather, who the Cubs took a flier on last year and it paid off immensely. The veteran flame-thrower struck out 98 batters over 72 innings last year with a 3.38 ERA.

But the team is still struggling to replace Merryweather's production. Missaki's signing could help over the course of the season, but it will take time as he will likely have to make pit stops at the training facility in Arizona and play with the Iowa Cubs for a time before a big-league call-up can happen. All of that could take weeks or months, depending on a variety of factors, so Missaki isn't a quick answer. But we've seen the team make something of players looking for an opportunity before so it'll be interesting to follow Missaki's tenure with the organization.