After adding David Phelps and Derek Holland to bolster their relief corps earlier this week, the Cubs traded right-handed reliever Carl Edwards Jr. to the Padres as the trade deadline closed. For Edwards, a change of scenery seemed like the best course of action after struggling this season. The trade was first reported by Jesse Rogers and the Padres return was reported by Mark Gonzales.
Just a few years ago, Edwards was one of the key relief arms who helped the Cubs end their 108-year World Series drought. From 2016 through last year, he was an excellent setup man, posting a 3.03 ERA and a 3.12 FIP across more than 150 innings. Among all 189 qualified relievers during those three years, his strikeout rate ranked 11th and his park- and league-adjusted FIP ranked 29th.
Edwards’ success came in spite of extremely poor command. His walk rate was the third-highest in the majors during that period. He managed to keep his FIP so low by maintaining a ridiculously high strikeout rate and keeping the ball in the park with a very low home run rate. This year, his strikeout rate has fallen to just 26.6% and his home run rate has spiked. That’s led to a 5.87 ERA and a 5.51 FIP. His struggles have forced the Cubs to option him to Triple-A twice this season. He’s also spent some time on the injured list for a strained back.
But his problems might have started way back during spring training. In an effort to solve the command issues that have plagued him throughout his career, he worked on a new delivery all spring, which included a pause and a toe tap to help him gain consistency. But during his first appearance in the regular season, umpire Bill Miller informed him that his new delivery was illegal.
After swapping back to his old mechanics on the fly, Edwards was quickly demoted to Triple-A to continue working on his delivery. After returning to the majors in May, he looked much better, allowing just four walks and a single home run in 13.2 innings. In many ways, he looked like he had made the necessary adjustments to his mechanics to try and solve his command woes, even if his strikeout numbers weren’t nearly as gaudy.
In his one major league appearance after returning from his back injury, Edwards’ fastball velocity was down to 92.7 mph. It’s possible the Cubs activated him a little too early. They optioned him back to Triple-A after that single inning on July 21. Now he is off to San Diego to strengthen the Padres’ bullpen. The 27-year-old is arbitration eligible for the first time next year and controlled through 2022, and if he is healthy, the Padres should get a nice piece for the back of their bullpen — especially if he’s figured out his mechanical problems. For Edwards, too, the change of scenery might be beneficial. His time with the Cubs was certainly memorable, but his relationship with the fans might have soured after receiving racist messages via social media during his rough patch at the start of the season.
In return, the Cubs get a left-handed reliever who is physically the opposite of the slender Edwards. Brad Wieck is listed at 6’9”/255 lbs — a very large human. After making the transition to relief work in 2016, he’s posted a 37.3% minor league strikeout rate across three levels. He made his major league debut last year but has struggled with the long ball this season. He’s allowed 12 home runs in 42.3 combined innings in Triple-A and the majors. Here’s Eric Longenhagen’s scouting report:
Wieck sits 93-94 and touches 95, vertical arm slot creates weird angle on the pitch, he’s a plus-plus extension guy who adds about two ticks of perceived velo because of it, and he gets a lot of swinging strikes with the fastball. Fills the zone up with the heater and just throws a lot of fastballs, generally. He’s a good lefty relief piece.
The 27-year-old did have surgery for testicular cancer over the offseason, but his minor league track record could make him an interesting piece for the Cubs.
Jake Mailhot is a contributor to FanGraphs. A long-suffering Mariners fan, he also writes about them for Lookout Landing. Follow him on Twitter @jakemailhot.
Sad to see the Angry Burger go. The Ryan Dempster book is now closed.
The Matt Garza book you mean. Dempster for Hendricks lives on.
Either way the Rangers did just lovely on each of those swaps.