He could be good. Or not. But he’s worth a look.
My ideas are my ideas, which doesn’t make them accurate. Or popular. On the evening the Mesa Solar Sox won the AFL title, I got into a spirited discussion (with people wiser than I am) with how much I dislike the term “ceiling,” which is one of those terms that quite a few people think is universally understood and agreed upon. However, since I disagree with the definition, I run away from the term like it’s poison ivy. (I don’t want to be the one to tell James Triantos or Cristian Hernandez what the best realistic result is they can get from their career is. I’ll let their commitment, health, and professionalism do that.) Along the way, I come up with some really screwy ideas I endorse.
The rest of this article is why I want the Cubs to claim Cleveland Guardians pitcher J.C. Mejia on waivers. Cleveland DFAd him Friday.
If you’re basing your assessment of Mejia on his MLB career, it makes no sense. Similar to how my interest in Chicago native Zack Reks makes no sense looking at his MLB statistics. The first step toward understanding interest in Mejia involves starting with brewing up some tea or cocoa. I don’t consider a waiver claim to necessarily be frivolous, or a quick payout. Some of the better DFA Portal adds are far from immediate. Quick-get-rich schemes in MLB are how you trade a long-term piece of value for a rental. After all, it might work, amirite?
Mejia began the 2021 season in Triple-A Columbus. He is out of options, which isn’t optimal. To be completely blunt, he struggled at both the Triple-A and MLB levels. He started about a third of his total minor league games. At the MLB level in 2021, where his numbers were unsightly, he started 11 of 17 games. Durability with Mejia, is not a problem. He wouldn’t be a pitcher who loses all his velocity at 30 or 40 pitches. In all but two of his MLB starts, he made 50 or more pitches, with two over 90. If you’re fatigued by pitchers going 40 pitches and looking to run away, Mejia isn’t that.
A huge chunk of the reason I want Mejia is hinged to the likelihood new Cubs GM Carter Hawkins saw something in him to believe in, when Hawkins was in the Cleveland organization. Ideally, Mejia would be SP8 (eighth in the rotational pecking order) or SP9. However, to get Mejia for no talent, getting him on waivers would be the time to do so. The Cubs currently have three free roster spots on the 40-man roster and might make three more reductions by December 1. I strongly doubt the Cubs sign five players to big league deals by then.
Which leads to the likely lockout. I’m not sure how teams will (or won’t) be able to keep in touch with players. While the Mesa facility figures to be off-limits for MLB talent, teams might have a way to keep in touch with players, at least in some fashion. Mejia isn’t MLB-ready, but I’d prefer a live arm like Mejia’s during a lockout than quite a few other types of players. Then, as everyone re-descends on Mesa in March, May, or June, Mejia might (or might not) get run through waivers. Seriously, once everyone is sold on their roster, Mejia getting run through waivers wouldn’t raise a ripple of interest and the Cubs would have him for the rest of the 2022 campaign off the roster.
Many like to assume the best regarding a “random” free agent signing: “He might do well.” True, he might. He also might be lousy. If a player that might well be lousy is keeping another player off the roster (Mejia wouldn’t), there’s a mild cost in that. (I love waiver claims of players with years of options remaining, and years until free agency. See Reks, who I could almost entirely substitute this article for.) Sergio Alcántara, for instance, was not earth-shattering with the Cubs. He was okay, and stayed around, mainly, because he had an option season remaining. Now, some consider him a valid middle infielder, because he got a valid look.
“If he gets a valid look, how will he do?” is a very reasonable question. I get the impression that this question sends some to the cash bar for a double. I don’t claim to know when the light will go on for Mejia, who is 25. Or, if it ever will. Perhaps it has, and where he is now is all he will ever be. However, the Cleveland organization has been rather good the last six or eight years at guessing right on pitchers. Their letting go of Mejia could have been a numbers game, as they were rumored to be with Tampa Bay in a roster crunch scenario last week.
Finally, looking to next November, the Cubs figure to be in a spot with a number of players hitting Rule 5 Draft eligibility. If that ends up being the case, the Cubs ought to take full advantage of the 2022 season as a chance to assess their November 2022 question marks. Whatever you think this week of Tommy Nance, Scott Effross, Michael Rucker, or any of a number of small sample size candidates, bringing in and better assessing current 40-man roster players other teams might want in a year would be useful. Particularly if the Cubs can sell other teams on some of them. (Tampa Bay traded a 40-man addition to Cleveland on Friday for a youngster with an OPS of over .900 in the DSL in 2021.)
The easy call is to plug claiming a known quantity, like Clint Frazier, on waivers. He could figure it out, after all, and have a few good years with the Cubs. What that would require is: He does well in spring training, does well early, and keeps doing well thereafter. Which could happen. I tend to doubt the likelihood of three month hot streaks as being likely. Frank Schwindel had two hot months, and some project he will fall apart, which also could happen. The reality is, we’re all guessing.
With Mejia, signing him wouldn’t require him being beyond “sweltering” for any specific period of time, at all. Most guys I’m interested in? If they’re terrible for three weeks? Send them to Triple-A. Which is one of the first things I look for in a DFA wire addition: Can he be gleefully sent to Triple-A? That happened immediately with Schwindel, where he hit well enough to take over for Anthony Rizzo, once Rizzo was traded.
Perhaps Mejia is merely forever outclassed at the MLB or Triple-A levels. If so, the Cubs are out a roster spot they were unlikely to fill over the lockout, anyway. If Hawkins sells Jed Hoyer on filing a claim, there’s as little expected of him as was expected of from Schwindel. Which is how waiver claims ought to be. Then, Mejia eventually gets to show how good he is, or isn’t. With the small sample size warning, none of us know what that is.