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Cubs upgrade 'pen with trade for reliever Phelps

Club deals prospect Hatch to Blue Jays in exchange for right-hander
@MLBastian
July 30, 2019

ST. LOUIS -- The Cubs continued to reinforce their bullpen on Tuesday, reeling in right-hander David Phelps 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

ST. LOUIS -- The Cubs continued to reinforce their bullpen on Tuesday, reeling in right-hander David Phelps 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 Martín Maldonado.

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 Craig Kimbrel 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 Pedro Strop on the 10-day injured list with left neck tightness and recalled righty Duane Underwood Jr. 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.

Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.