Cubs upgrade 'pen with trade for reliever Phelps

Club deals prospect Hatch to Blue Jays in exchange for right-hander

July 31st, 2019

ST. LOUIS -- The Cubs continued to reinforce their bullpen on Tuesday, reeling in right-hander in a trade with the Blue Jays.

The Cubs announced that they acquired Phelps and a cash consideration from Toronto in exchange for right-handed pitching prospect Thomas Hatch, who was ranked No. 29 on Chicago's Top 30 prospects list by MLB Pipeline. The deal comes on the eve of Wednesday's 3 p.m. CT Trade Deadline.

"I'm a big fan. With the Yankees originally, I liked him a lot," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He still has that ability to get out a lefty, too. Very aggressive, very physical, an aggressive, let's go kind of guy. I don't know him. I've just been a fan in the distance. So, it's going to be wonderful to work with him."

To make room for Phelps on the 40-man roster, left-handed pitcher Xavier Cedeño has been transferred to the 60-day injured list.

Over the weekend, the Cubs took a step to address their need for lefty help in the bullpen by acquiring left-hander Derek Holland from the Giants in exchange for cash considerations. Earlier this month, Chicago also shipped left-hander Mike Montgomery to Kansas City in exchange for veteran catcher .

Maddon was asked if he expects president of baseball operations Theo Epstein to complete any other deals before Wednesday's Deadline.

"I don't know. I really don't," Maddon said. "Like I've said all along, he and [GM Jed Hoyer] have been actively considering different things. And we'll see. It takes two to tango. You've got to make sure both sides are on the same page, but I know our guys are actively [looking]."

Heading into this week's series with the Cardinals, the Cubs are carrying nine relievers in their bullpen, which has undergone a number of changes throughout a turbulent campaign for the group. The biggest alteration arrived last month, when Chicago signed blockbuster free agent to a three-year, $43 million contract to fill the team's glaring need for a closer.

Prior to Tuesday's game, the Cubs also placed setup man on the 10-day injured list with left neck tightness and recalled righty from Triple-A Iowa to assume the vacancy in the bullpen. Phelps is expected to join the Cubs on Wednesday, when he will need to be added to the active roster.

The 32-year-old Phelps returned to the mound in June following multiple surgeries, including a Tommy John ligament-replacement procedure in March of 2018. In 17 games for Toronto this season, the righty posted a 3.63 ERA with 18 strikeouts against seven walks in 17 1/3 innings.

Phelps is under contract for $2.5 million this season and his contract includes a $1 million team option for 2020. That option can increase to $3 million if the reliever reaches 30 games and again climb to $5 million at 40 appearances.

Per Statcast, Phelps' arsenal this season has featured a cutter (33.9 percent of the time), curveball (27.9), four-seamer (22.5) and sinker (15.8). The right-hander sits around 89-91 mph with his fastballs on average and has a 25.4 percent strikeout rate this year, compared to a 9.9 percent walk rate.

Over his career, Phelps has turned in a 3.88 ERA across 245 games between stops with the Yankees, Marlins, Mariners and Blue Jays. He has held right-handed batters to a .245 average (.665 OPS) and lefties to a .247 average (.747 OPS) during his career in the Majors.

The 6-foot-2 Phelps was originally selected by the New York Yankees in the 14th round of the 2008 Draft out of the University of Notre Dame.