The Cubs officially announced the signing of MVP vote-getter Ryan Tepera Tuesday, marking the righty reliever’s return after he had been non-tendered in early December. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it was reported earlier that he will earn a guaranteed $800,000 with the potential for as much as $1.75 million with added incentives.
Tepera, 33, put up a 3.92 ERA with an 0-1 record and two holds over 20.2 innings, striking out 31 walking 12. He allowed just two home runs to 89 batters faced, holding opponents to a .227 average with a .684 OPS. Those marks were actually best against lefties, who he limited to a .188 average and .638 OPS. If he can keep making good use of a cutter that was among the best pitches in baseball last season, he’ll help lock down the late innings.
In a somewhat surprising move, the Cubs made room on the roster by designating righty Duane Underwood Jr. for assignment. The 26-year-old righty has gone 1-1 with a 5.20 ERA over 36.1 innings in 30 games, flashing potential as a strikeout artist who limited walks. He had a lot of trouble keeping the ball out of the air and in the yard, though, hence the hefty ERA.
Underwood is also out of minor league options, so it was seemingly a choice between him and fellow inconsistent reliever Dillon Maples. Perhaps this is a sign that the Cubs are confident in Maples’ ability to finally put it all together, or maybe they simply see him as having a higher ceiling. On a more positive note, it doesn’t appear the Cubs will need to place Rowan Wick on the 60-day IL.
Though the decision to DFA Underwood may end up being inconsequential, this is one of those procedural moves that Jed Hoyer really has to get right. It’s not unlike the choice to DFA Phil Ervin in favor of Jake Marisnick and possibly even Cameron Maybin. The coaching staff and front office obviously have an idea of who they think will perform best and that means making difficult decisions when it comes down to those final spots on the 40-man.