Cubs make surprising move, DFA Mark Leiter Jr. to make room for Eric Hosmer

Cincinnati Reds v Chicago Cubs
Cincinnati Reds v Chicago Cubs / Jamie Sabau/GettyImages

Early in the offseason, the Cubs' 40-man roster crunch was a hot topic of discussion and with the signing of veteran first baseman Eric Hosmer being made official on Friday, right-handed swingman Mark Leiter Jr. found himself as the odd man out.

Chicago designated Leiter Jr. for assignment Friday morning, roughly 13 months after bringing the former 22nd round pick into the fold via free agency. He certainly pulled his weight in 2022, playing a key role for a Cubs team that pieced together the pitching staff for long stretches of the year, bouncing back and forth between the rotation and bullpen.

Cubs seem to be prioritizing youth in their bullpen mix

As a starter, Leiter Jr. wasn't anything to write home about, going winless in four starts with an ERA north of 8.00. But in the bullpen, the right-hander really came into his own, recording a 2.87 ERA and 10.5 K/9 in 31 appearances, which included him finishing 11 ballgames. On the whole, he closed out the year with a 3.99 ERA and 1.138 WHIP in 67 1/3 innings of work.

Given the success he found in the bullpen, it's somewhat surprising to see the Cubs move on from Leither. My guess is that they want more youth on the staff (Leiter turns 32 in March and has less than 200 big league innings to his name) and maybe there was some concern with some of his metrics (fastball spin rate and velocity were well below average as was his walk rate).

Of course, along with the plethora of young arms who will vie for spots on the staff in spring training, the Cubs also added right-handed veteran Brad Boxberger this offseason. Although, as was pointed out on Twitter Friday morning, some of the projections seem to favor Leiter Jr. over the 34-year-old, which only makes the decision to DFA the former more puzzling.

Next. Cubs will have to figure out their closer on the fly this spring. dark

In the end, this comes down to the sheer number of young arms the Cubs feel are ready to make an impact at the major league level. Jed Hoyer clearly has faith in those guys to eat innings in 2023 and with money left to spend and a need from the left side, I wouldn't be shocked if we see a southpaw veteran arm added to the mix before everyone heads to Mesa next month, either.