The Cubs have placed Marcus Stroman on the 15-day IL with right hip inflammation, an issue that could help to explain his performance over the last several weeks. Replacing him on the roster is newly-acquired righty reliever José Cuas, who came over from the Royals in exchange for Nelson Velázquez. Let’s discuss Stroman first, then we’ll hit on the new guy.
I’m not sure how much of this move is about a legitimate issue and how much is allowing Stroman to recenter after an awful stretch of baseball, but it’s probably at least a little of both. He’s allowed 30 earned runs over his last 30 innings dating back to the Cubs’ Sunday loss to the Cardinals in London, but it gets even uglier when you see he’s given up 42 hits and has walked 16 batters in that time.
He hasn’t experienced the kind of dip in velocity you’d normally expect from an injury, but that could be a matter of him compensating in other ways by muscling up. That could also mean altering his mechanics and getting poor results, though it’s possible this was a case of trade rumors getting to him more than he let on. He didn’t seem like his same ebullient self on the mound, which might just be a matter of perception being colored by this revelation.
Stroman told reporters that he got a cortisone shot on Wednesday, which he definitely would not have done if this wasn’t a real issue. Per Sahadev Sharma, the righty noted that he’s had similar issues in the past from which he bounced back quickly.
Regardless, the Cubs are going to have to figure out a way to fill his spot for at least two turns through the rotation. Javier Assad, who tossed 3.2 scoreless innings in relief of Stroman on Monday, would be the most logical choice. David Ross could also opt for bullpen games or a piggyback of Assad and Hayden Wesneski every fifth day.
That brings us to Cuas (sounds like Kwas), who might just be up in sort of a show-me-something capacity so the Cubs can get a look at him firsthand. He has appeared in 92 MLB games with a 4.08 ERA and a lot of walks, and the thinking had been that he needed a little tinkering in Triple-A. A sinker-heavy guy with a slider that has been less than good, the 29-year-old displayed some traits the organization thought could be leveraged.
It’s not his 93 mph velocity or the fact that he’s getting hammered to the tune of a 14.8% barrel rate that is second-worst in MLB. What Cuas has is a sidearm delivery with a fastball Stuff+ score of 151 that ranks third among all pitchers with at least 40 innings this season. It’s wild that he throws it less than 17% of the time, so it’ll be interesting to see whether and how the Cubs change his pitch usage and sequencing.
Even if Cuas ends up figuring some things out, he’s not nearly as important to a potential playoff run as Stroman. Having the pitcher who looked like a Cy Young frontrunner co-headlining the top of the rotation with Justin Steele gives the Cubs perhaps the best 1-2 punch in the NL. Add in Kyle Hendricks and you’ve got a contender. With Stroman pitching the way he has been lately, however, he’s barely worthy of a postseason roster spot.
Here’s to hoping he gets right over the next two weeks or so.