The Cubs may have been knocked out of action by rain Wednesday night, but they made use of their extra time by making a move to (maybe) strengthen their bullpen. In what seemed like a strange enough move that at least yours truly had to check multiple times to confirm the news was legit, the Cubs acquired lefty reliever Sean Newcomb from the Braves in exchange for Jesse Chavez and cash considerations.
Drafted by the Angels in 2014, the 28-year-old Newcomb was acquired by the Braves prior to the 2016 season in a deal centered around Andrelton Simmons. Newcomb made his MLB debut in 2017 and worked almost exclusively as a starter for two years before being shifted to the arm barn. He made four starts each in 2019 and ’20, but his last 35 appearances have all been in relief.
Capable of going more than an inning at a time, the 6-foot-5 southpaw gives the Cubs a little more balance even if his recent performance doesn’t scream that this is an upgrade. The big issue for Newcomb is walks, as he has issued 21 over his last 37.1 innings dating back to last season. That’s a change from Chavez, who was known more for his control.
The other big difference is velocity, with Newcomb averaging around 95 mph from the left side as opposed to the sub-90 heat Chavez was pumping. While the fastball hasn’t necessarily been effective for Newcomb lately, he’s got a trio of breaking balls — cutter, curve, slider — that allow him to be equally effective against hitters on both sides of the plate.
Even though this doesn’t appear to be much of an improvement if we’re looking at recent performance, and I’m talking the last three seasons, the Cubs got a little more dynamic and might see something they can unlock in Newcomb. If nothing else, this at least represents an attempt by the front office to get a little more power on the pitching staff.