May 30: The Cubs announced the Swarmer move as part of a broader series of transactions, with various reporters relaying the slate, including Mark Gonzales. To make room on the 40-man roster for Swarmer, Ethan Roberts has been transferred to the 60-day IL. To make room on the active roster, Jonathan Villar was placed on the 10-day IL after suffering a mouth injury while working out. Meghan Montemurro of the Chicago Tribune provides further context, saying that Villar had an exercise band snap back into his mouth, suffering an injury that will require significant dental work.
As for Roberts, he was placed on the IL May 2 with shoulder inflammation and won’t be eligible to return until early July. While there’s no timetable on his return, it seems the club isn’t expecting him back before then, based on today’s transaction.
May 29: The Cubs are going to select the contract of right-handed pitcher Matt Swarmer, per Meghan Montemurro of the Chicago Tribune. He will start the first game of tomorrow’s doubleheader against the Brewers, making his major league debut. Swarmer isn’t on the club’s 40-man roster, meaning a corresponding move will be required at some point between now and the start of the game.
It was reported earlier today that the Brewers will be promoting Ethan Small to make his major league debut in the same game, making it a battle of the debutants in tomorrow afternoon’s Memorial Day tilt. For those who like factoids, Jesse Rogers of ESPN relays that this will be the first time the Brewers have been involved in a game with two starters making their debuts, while the Cubs haven’t done it since 1944.
Swamer, 28, was a 19th round selection of the Cubs in the 2016 draft. Since then, he has quietly crept towards the majors without garnering too much attention from prospect evaluators. He’s never appeared on Baseball America’s list of top Chicago farmhands, nor on that of FanGraphs, though he did get a brief honorable mention on the FanGraphs list going into 2019. Just over a year ago, Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs did focus his radar on Swarmer, complementing the movement of his slider.
Last year, between Double-A and Triple-A, Swarmer made 20 starts and four relief appearances, logging 112 2/3 innings with a 4.79 ERA, 25.4% strikeout rate and 7.6% walk rate. He seems to have taken a step forward this year, as he’s made five starts and four relief appearances, throwing 39 innings with a 2.08 ERA. He’s gotten his strikeouts up to 27.3% but is also getting more walks with a 9.1% rate. A .213 BABIP and 82.8% strand rate are surely helping to deflate that ERA somewhat, though there’s lots to like about his results nonetheless.
The Cubs’ rotation currently consists of Marcus Stroman, Drew Smyly, Justin Steele, Kyle Hendricks and Keegan Thompson. But thanks to tomorrow’s doubleheader and another this Saturday, they are currently in a stretch of playing 11 games in 9 days. It’s possible that Swarmer will stick around for at least a couple of start to help the club get through that gruelling stretch. They then have a couple of days off in the following week, which should allow them to return to a five-man rotation, though health and performance issues can always change plans quickly.