When the Chicago Cubs traded Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Oakland Athletics on Friday, the move created a ripple effect through the Cubs minor league system. Nowhere will the immediate effects be felt more than with the triple-A Iowa Cubs.
Wednesday evening in Cincinnati, Tsuyoshi Wada will make his debut with the Cubs, pitching the second game of a day-night doubleheader. Wada has certainly earned a shot in Chicago, having been outstanding all season for Iowa. Wada has nine wins, tied for second best in the PCL, to go along with an ERA of 2.66, good for fifth best in the league. Wada is also second in the PCL in strikeouts with 105. Wada will take the 26th roster spot for the Cubs. Teams can carry 26 players on days when a doubleheader is being played.
Dallas Beeler will get his second major league start on Wednesday in Cincinnati. Beeler made his major league debut in a spot start on Saturday, June 28 against the Washington Nationals. Beeler was impressive, allowing only one unearned run and four hits over six innings, striking out six. Beeler also singled on the first pitch he saw off Nationals lefty Gio Gonzalez.
Thursday afternoon in Cincinnati, Kyle Hendricks will make his major league debut for the Cubs. Hendricks, the Cubs minor league pitcher of the year in 2013, is tied for the PCL lead in victories with 10. Hendricks is in the top 10 in the league with a 3.59 ERA and ranks fourth in strikeouts with 97.
Another Iowa starter, Chris Rusin was recalled by the Cubs on July 5, and pitched against the Nationals on the same day.
What this all means is that in a matter of six days, 80% of Iowa’s starting rotation will have appeared in a Chicago Cubs uniform, leaving Eric Jokisch as the only remaining starter not to pitch for Chicago.
Dan Straily, acquired in Friday’s trade with Oakland, started his first game for Iowa on Monday night in Omaha. Straily gave up four unearned runs in the second inning after an error by Kris Bryant extended the inning. Straily figures to be a permanent addition to the Iowa starting rotation barring a call-up to Chicago.
Tuesday night in Omaha, Dae-Eun Rhee will make his debut with Iowa, getting the start originally scheduled for Beeler. Rhee was 5-4 with a solid 3.27 ERA in 18 games with the double-A Tennessee Smokies. Rhee, from South Korea, will be making his first triple-A appearance.
It is uncertain how long Wada, Beeler, Hendricks, and Rusin will remain with Chicago. What is certain is that with Samardzija and Hammel gone, there are two holes in the Cubs rotation that will need to be filled whether it is through the minor league system or via a trade or waiver claim.
Iowa’s rotation is likely to be mix and match, at least until Chicago decides who will replace Samardzija and Hammel. Carlos Pimentel is an option to move back into the rotation where he started the season and Rhee may stick if he proves he can get batters out.
The starting rotation has been a strong point for Iowa all season, having already surpassed last year’s number of quality starts for the entire season. The offense will need to pick up some of the slack if Iowa is to remain in first place. Javier Baez is getting hot at the right time, having homered in three of the last four games while Kris Bryant and Arismendy Alcantara continue to knock the ball around the park on a regular basis. If the team can stay out front until the starting pitching situation sorts itself out, Iowa could be poised for a playoff run in the PCL.