The Cubs informed reporters that pitchers Anthony Kay and Manuel Rodriguez that all of them have gone without claiming a waiver (via Meghan Montemurro of the Chicago Tribune). Both players were sent outright to Triple-A Iowa. This is the first full assignment for both, meaning they will both remain in the organization but will not have a spot on the 40-man roster.
Kay lasted only a few weeks on the Chicago 40-man. The Cubs claimed the righty off waivers from the Blue Jays just before Christmas but designated him for assignment last Friday after signing him Trey Mancini. The moves allow them to roll the dice on a former first-round pick without committing a roster spot. Kay has briefly targeted the MLB level with Toronto in each of the last four seasons. He has managed just a 5.48 ERA through 70 2/3 career innings, plagued both by an 11.4% walk percentage and a hefty .340 batting average on balls in play against him.
The 27-year-old has shown some swing-and-miss upside amid his early struggles. He has hit a solid percentage of 23.5% during his MLB time, generating whiffs on a decent 10.4% of his pitches. Kay has a nearly identical 23.6% strikeout rate over parts of four minor league campaigns.
Rodríguez, 26, spent his entire career with the Cubs but was designated for assignment a week ago after being claimed by Chicago Julian Merryweather. He earned a spot on the 40-man roster over the 2019-20 season and reached the MLB level a little more than a year later. The righty has pitched out of David Ross’ bullpen in each of the past two seasons. He worked 31 1/3 innings over 34 total appearances, posting a 4.88 ERA. That came with strikeout and walk rates (17.5% and 15%, respectively), but the sinkerballer has generated groundouts at a quality 53.2% clip.
Owner of a fastball that sits in the 96-97 MPH range, Rodríguez offers an intriguing power arm that will keep the Cubs at the upper levels. The Mexico native has a 4.51 ERA through 145 2/3 minor league innings. He’s also struggled to throw strikes at the lower levels, though he’s been much more effective in the minors in missing at-bats (career 31.4% strikeout percentage).
Because of their respective MLB experience, it looks like Kay and Rodríguez will receive non-roster invitations to Spring Training in a few weeks. If they don’t make the roster out of camp, they’ll open the year as depth options in Iowa. Both players would be eligible for minor league free agency at the end of next season if they are not returned to the 40-man roster before the end of the year.