Cubs Signal Willingness to Spend by Claiming LHP Wade Miley

The Cubs claimed lefty Wade Miley off waivers from the Reds Friday, a surprising move that likely signals a willingness to spend in a pretty meaningful way. That’s the opposite of what’s going on in Cincinnati, where GM Nick Krall said in the statement announcing Tucker Barnhart‘s trade that the Reds must “align our payroll to our resources.”

Barnhart had a $7.5 million option and Reds avoided a $500,000 buyout by sending him to Detroit, indicating they were serious about saving money. Miley’s option had a $1 million buyout, which the Reds don’t need to pay because they waived him. Trying to save a buck is nothing new, but I’m curious as to why they didn’t pick up the option and trade him. Guess the immediate payroll cut was viewed as better than risking a cold market.

But back to the Cubs, who just spent $10 million on a 35-year-old southpaw who doesn’t average 90 mph on his fastball and who outperformed his peripherals last season. So much for all that talk from Jed Hoyer about power arms who miss bats, huh? Miley actually lowers the 89.9 mph average fastball velocity that was already the lowest of any rotation in MLB this past season.

I don’t really like this move from a pure baseball perspective because I don’t have much trust in Miley’s ability to maintain everything that made him successful last season. It almost feels a little like Zach Davies, though it’s entirely possible my take is colored by recency bias. Miley usually does a good job of keeping the ball on the ground and in the yard, he commands the corners well, and his fastball has never been a weapon so he’s not trying to recapture old glory.

What I really love about this pickup, however, is how it appears to show that the Cubs are willing to spend some money this winter. This could serve as the opposite of when they signaled a lack of spending by choosing not to pick up Kendall Graveman‘s option.

Miley also fits very much with what we’ve said the Cubs will be looking for this offseason, which is serviceable veterans with short-term obligations. If he performs well and the team is competitive, $10 million is a small price to pay. If he succeeds and the team flounders, a deadline deal will be made. If he regresses, there’s no commitment beyond 2022.

Long story short, I feel better about this because of what it should mean for the rest of the offseason than I do about the move itself. However, I’ll temper that by saying Hoyer and Carter Hawkins now really need to go out and get some dudes who throw gas because I can’t handle another rotation filled with soft-tossers. Maybe this is a sign that they’ll be laser-focused on those power pitchers now.

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