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Blue Jays Claim Jose Cuas Off Waivers From Cubs

The Cubs announced this afternoon that right-hander Jose Cuas has been claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays. Cuas was designated for assignment earlier this week in order to make room for righty Ethan Roberts on the club’s 40-man roster. The move puts Toronto’s 40-man roster at capacity.

Cuas, who will celebrate his 30th birthday later this week, made his big league debut with the Royals back in 2022 but was traded to the Cubs in exchange for outfielder Nelson Velazquez at the trade deadline last summer. He was a decent middle reliever for the Royals during his time in Kansas City, pitching to a 4.08 ERA (106 ERA+) with a 4.41 FIP in 79 1/3 innings of work for the club between the 2022 and ’23 campaigns. Unfortunately for both Cuas and the Cubs, the wheels began to come off for the sidearming righty upon his arrival in Chicago last year.

While his 3.04 ERA in 27 appearances for the Cubs down the stretch last summer was actually fairly strong, it came with concerning peripherals. His strikeout rate dipped from a strong 27.1% during his time with the Royals last year to a worrisome 19% in Chicago, while his walk rate simultaneously ballooned from a manageable 10% figure in Kansas City all the way up to 14% for the north siders. While a strong 55.6% groundball rate allowed Cuas to keep the damage to a minimum, he was no longer looking the part of a quality middle relief option.

Things took an even worse turn for Cuas in 2024 when his groundball rate plummeted to just 31%. While his walk rate dropped down to a career-best 9.2% figure, that came at least in part as a result of opposing hitters teeing off Cuas pitches with a 14.3% barrel rate and a 45.2% Hard Hit rate. While Cuas’s strikeout rate crept back up to a more acceptable 21.5% this year, that still wasn’t enough to stop the right-hander from surrendering 12 runs (11 earned) in 13 1/3 innings of work for the Cubs this year, leaving him with a 7.43 ERA and a 5.99 FIP.

Despite those deep struggles during his time in Chicago, it’s not hard to see why the Blue Jays would want to take a chance on the righty. After all, when Cuas’s arsenal is working well, his sinker/slider combo allows him to strike out around a quarter of the batters he faces while keeping walks to a clip of around 10% and eliciting grounders on around half of his batted balls. That’s certainly the profile of a valuable pitcher, even though Cuas has not been able to put it all together at the big league level yet during his career.

Even if he isn’t able to reach that potential, the right-hander still provides the Blue Jays with an optionable relief arm on a minimum salary who can be shuttled from Triple-A to the majors as necessary. That’s a valuable commodity for any bullpen, but especially for a Blue Jays bullpen that has posted a league-worst 4.83 FIP to this point in the 2024 campaign. Should the club turn to Cuas at some point, he’d likely factor into the middle relief mix alongside the likes of Zach Pop and Genesis Cabrera.

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