Cubs add former Nationals righty pitcher
Geoff Burke - USA Today Sports

Cubs add former Nationals righty pitcher


by - Senior Writer -

You didn't think the Cubs would go another day without making a Minor League signing, did you?

After all, that is what Jed Hoyer and the front office have been doing for the better part of a month, stockpiling as much minor-league roster talent as they can to create as much depth as possible.

So far, all of the signings have been on the pitching side, which shouldn't surprise anyone, given the injuries they faced early in the season. Well, according to sources, the Cubs have indeed come to terms on another Minor League deal, as former Washington Nationals righty Kyle McGowin is coming to the Cubs system on a Minor League deal.

The 32-year-old right-hander was pitching for the Charleston Dirty Birds prior to this signing and will now be heading to the Cubs system, where some feel he may land on the 40-man roster. Initially a fifth-round pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2013, McGowin took five years to make his MLB debut, when he debuted with the Nationals in 2018.

Things haven't gone well for him since making his MLB debut, as he has appeared in 48 games (2 starts) and has posted an ERA of 5.98. For those who are not familiar with the Independent Leagues or how they work, the simple explanation is that they are a minor league-caliber baseball organization that the MLB or MILB doesn't oversee. In other words, the Independent League has its own rules but does serve as a way for players to get back onto an MLB roster.

McGowin is the next pitcher in a long line of arms to take this approach, and now he will look to prove to the Cubs he is worth keeping around, even if on a Minor League deal. Despite his struggles since being called up, McGowin has made significant strides since 2018, and it did seem as if he was coming into his own as a pitcher in 2021.

Across 30 innings that season, McGowin racked up 35 strikeouts and posted a 4.20 ERA. He dealt with the dreaded elbow pain later that season and was put on the IL with a UCL sprain. The good news is that it never required Tommy John surgery, but it still meant the end of the line for him in Washington as the Nationals chose to release him at the end of the season.

Put in a tough spot, McGowin was out of baseball for 2022 before latching on with the Independent League in 2023, the Houston Astros AAA team, and even an appearance in the Chinese Baseball League. McGowin eventually landed back with the Independent League this season and struck out 11 batters in 10 innings before signing this deal with the Cubs.

Considering he has been out of affiliated ball for a few seasons, it's hard to predict how things will go and what type of pitcher he is now. He heavily relied on his slider, throwing that pitch nearly 70% of the time. The rest of the time, he leaned on his 91 MPH heater, as he was primarily a two-pitch pitcher for his entire career.

Having that kind of repertoire may make him a good starter in the Independent Leagues or the lower-level Minors, but it won't make him a starter at this level, so expect him to be nothing more than a reliever at this point. As we have seen for the past three seasons, the Cubs are no strangers to making deals like this, as the front office identifies something they like in starters and wants to get them in the pitch lab to build off that.

This is the case for McGowin, as his slider could be the pitch the Cubs love, and they may want to see more of that in their lab. Maybe the Cubs can unlock something more that could lead to him being a AAA contributor, but at this point, this screams depth piece as the Cubs injuries continue to take a toll on the organization from the top down.

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