The Cubs made a flurry of roster moves today. Per Meghan Montemurro of the Chicago Tribune, the club optioned right-hander Adrian Sampson to Triple-A Iowa, recalled Frank Schwindel from Triple-A Iowa, selected left-hander Conner Menez onto the major league roster, and placed right-hander David Robertson on the IL without an injury distinction — generally a sign that the move is COVID-related. Presuming Robertson’s IL stint is indeed COVID-related, the Cubs would not have been required to add Menez to the 40-man roster in order to add him to the active roster, though Montemurro later clarified that the club has added him to the 40-man.
Sampson’s demotion and Schwindel’s return to the majors mark something of an abrupt about-face for the Cubs, who’d selected Sampson’s contract (to replace Marcus Stroman, who also went on the IL without an injury designation) and optioned Schwindel to Triple-A only yesterday. Sampson did pitch in his one game with the big-league club, covering the ninth inning of a blowout loss to the Dodgers, while Schwindel did not enter a game during his (extremely) brief stint in the minors. Both players had success for the Cubs in 2021: Sampson, who’s also pitched for the Mariners, Rangers, and the KBO’s Lotte Giants in his career, posted a 2.80 ERA over 35 1/3 innings for Chicago (albeit with a 5.72 FIP), and Schwindel posted a world-beating .342/.389/.613 across 239 plate appearances (albeit with an unsustainable .364 BABIP). In 2022, Sampson has served as minor league depth outside his single inning on Sunday, while Schwindel has posted a far more pedestrian 209/.250/.308 batting line in 96 trips to the plate.
The 37-year-old Robertson, who signed with the Cubs in March for a $3.5MM guarantee, was off to a strong start to what’s been an otherwise disappointing first month on Chicago’s north side. In 12 innings, he’s notched a 1.50 ERA while striking out 37.8% of the batters he’s faced and converting all five of his save opportunities. Presuming his trip to the IL is COVID-related, he’s unlikely to be out for more than a week or so, though his absence in the bullpen could well prove costly for a club hoping to contend but already nine games adrift in the NL Central.
Menez, who arrived in Chicago via the minor league phase of the 2021 Rule 5 draft, has actually had some success in the majors in a limited sample, notching a serviceable 4.04 ERA (if a less sightly 5.01 FIP) across 42 1/3 innings in parts of the 2019, 2020, and 2021 seasons, all spent with the Giants. He’s primarily been a starter in the minors (and has started four games in the majors) and was off to a strong start in Triple-A, pitching 16 2/3 innings of 2.16 ERA ball while striking out better than a batter an inning. His time in the majors may be short (perhaps only until either Robertson or Stroman returns from the IL), but he could also slot in as a long relief/swingman option if he can continue to miss bats in the majors. The fact he’s been added to the 40-man roster when he could have been selected without the addition could signal that GM Carter Hawkins hopes to see him stick around for a while.