Chicago Cubs making an aggressive decision by moving Michael Arias to relief

Arias seemed likely to start 2024 in the Tennessee Smokies' rotation, but the Chicago Cubs are being bolder as they plan out the future of the organization.

2024 Chicago Cubs Spring Training
2024 Chicago Cubs Spring Training / Matt Dirksen/GettyImages

When it comes to their pitching prospects, the Chicago Cubs are showing a little more aggression with their moves of late in hopes of maximizing upside. First, it was the team's #2-ranked pitching prospect Ben Brown getting the nod to join the big league team ahead of Hayden Wesneski after Justin Steele's injury. Now, the organization is reportedly making the surprisingly early call to move Michael Arias to the bullpen in Double-A Tennessee.

The report in question comes from Arizona Phil, who noted that Arias's spot in the rotation will be taken by Richard Gallardo. It could mean the Cubs are fast-tracking his development in hopes of having him available as an option for the big league bullpen later this year. Even if that's the case, though, this would be an especially bold move considering the team's behavior in the past and how early it's happening.

Arias put himself on radars last year after blowing away batters at Myrtle Beach with a 2.55 ERA and 13.6 strikeouts per nine innings. At High-A, however, he started to falter, even if he was still missing bats at an impressive rate. Still, his performance and upside were enough to earn the righty a spot in the (sadly unplayed) Cubs Spring Breakout game and place him as the team's #13 prospect by MLB. With the extreme pitching depth at the team's fingertips, however, chances of him becoming a starter for the team seemed slim.

His mid to high 90s fastball and funky arm slot made him stand out as a bullpen conversion candidate like Luke Little and Daniel Palencia, though even they got opportunities to start games before their transition. The Cubs are instead showing complete confidence in their pitching infrastructure to keep producing quality starters and in Arias's ability to be a big-leaguer sooner rather than later. Regarding the former, the team still has Brown, Wesneski, and their top pitching prospect Cade Horton among those eyeing a chance to break through this season.

The Chicago Cubs continue to hint at aggressive pitching promotions.

In all, it's a further show of aggression and emphasis on upside that hasn't been there in previous seasons. Like with the move of Brown, the team is forgoing "safe," predictable decisions in favor of those with a higher ceiling that, if they succeed, could give them an edge throughout the season.

There should be no rush to bring Arias up to the majors, but it's a clear message by the organization that they will make every internal option they can available to Craig Counsell to build the best version of the bullpen by the end of the season. Other options still wait in the wings like Palencia, Wesneski, and Edwin Escobar if needed in the meantime. Until then, Arias can refine his tools with the late innings in mind with hopes of joining the Cubs' arsenal of optionable, nasty minor league arms.

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