Cubs Roster Move: Mark Leiter Jr. Clears Waivers, Outrighted to Iowa, Now Has a Choice (UPDATE: He Chose Free Agency)
UPDATE: Like PJ Higgins before him, Mark Leiter Jr. opted for free agency rather than accepting a minor league outright assignment by the Cubs.
As you can see in the original post below, Leiter was really quite great for the Cubs in relief in 2022, albeit in a small sample. He’s going to have a ton of well-paying minor league offers out there (likely no big league offers, since he cleared waivers and any team could’ve grabbed him then), so I can understand that he may have felt he could (1 ) get as much money elsewhere (or an earlier opt-out or the like), and/or (2) find a club with a clearer path back to the big leagues.
The Cubs were in a tricky spot with Leiter because he does not have any minor league options remaining. So, if they’d kept him on the 40-man, he either would have had to make the Opening Day eight-man bullpen, or they would’ve had to put him on waivers anyway (and done this whole dance in March/ April). It’s better for everyone – including Leiter – to do it now. So he cleared waivers, was outrighted, and got a chance to decline the outright and find a job in a free agency before Spring Training begins. It sucks to lose him as quality depth, but this is the better way to handle things.
All the best to Leiter in finding his next gig. Which, hey, it’s not like the Cubs can’t re-sign him to a better minor league deal if it came to that. Just sayin’.
*original post from January 19 follows*
Today, righty Mark Leiter Jr. cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Iowa by the Cubs (Sharma). The 31-year-old was excellent in the second half for the Cubs once he was converted to relief, but they have so many players right now for the bullpen, and Leiter did not have minor league options remaining. So when the 40-man got squeezed, he was among the odd men out. He was designated for assignment last week, hit waivers, and cleared (ie, no team wanted to snag him for their own 40-man roster – it’s a tough time to fit guys on, and his lack of minor league options would be a drawback for a lot of clubs).
Successfully Outrighting Leiter to Iowa would mean the Cubs get to keep him for the 2023 season on what amounts to a minor league deal.
That’s not the end of this process, though. The outright assignment would come with a nice minor league salary, but Leiter doesn’t have to take it. He has three days to decide whether to accept the assignment, or reject it in favor of free agency.
Because Leiter has been outrighted before in his career, he has earned the right to refuse this outright assignment in favor of free agency. Because he cleared waivers, it’s highly unlikely he could get a big league deal out there (otherwise a team would’ve claimed him). But maybe he decides there is a better path back to the big leagues in another organization, or a more favorable minor league deal out there.
Recently, PJ Higgins had the same choice after clearing waivers and being outrighted to Iowa. He elected to head to free agency instead, and subsequently signed a minor league deal with the Diamondbacks.
Stay tuned. It would obviously be VERY ideal if the Cubs could keep Leiter around in the organization.