The Chicago Cubs have non-tendered Brandon Hughes, Codi Heuer, and Ethan Roberts, three relief pitchers who combined for just 13.2 big league innings pitched in 2023.
All three men have become free agents and will be able to sign with any team they choose to move forward.
All 13.2 of those innings were thrown by lefty Brandon Hughes, and I was honestly surprised to see his name on this list. Although a nagging knee injury ballooned his ERA to an ugly 7.24 and kept him on the injured list most of the year, Hughes was an extremely effective reliever in his inaugural 2022 season. He served as the only effective lefty in the Cubs' bullpen that year after converting from a position player in the minor leagues. Hughes tossed 57.2 innings with a 3.12 ERA, eight holds, and eight saves, and I'd argue he became the Cubs' most-trusted reliever that year.
The team may know something about Hughes' knee that the public doesn't, which would explain this move. Otherwise, I guess they were unwilling to trust that he would return to form after his injury. Given the Cubs' need for lefties last year, this move has me a bit baffled. Despite the emergence of Luke Little and the probability of Drew Smyly and Jordan Wicks pitching out of the bullpen, I guess there isn't as much of a shortage of lefties. The team also just added Bailey Horn to its 40-man roster so there are plenty of internal options. After this move, the Cubs would be smart to sign a lefty reliever this offseason to be safe.
As for Roberts and Heuer, the moves are not too shocking. Both men spent the entirety of 2023 rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and their futures were too uncertain not to be non-tender candidates. Heuer may have avoided this fate if he hadn't suffered a scary setback during a rehab outing in June, which sidelined him for the rest of the year. Roberts only has 7.2 big league innings to his name while Heuer was effective for the Cubs and White Sox in 2020 and 2021.