The Cubs add free-agent righty Sam McWilliams to minor league deal
Kim Klement - USA Today Sports

The Cubs add free-agent righty Sam McWilliams to minor league deal

by - Senior Writer -

It is amazing how one small signing can lead to many other signings along the way. After a bit of a stalemate, the Cubs elected to bring back Carl Edwards Jr over the weekend in what could be one of the more overlooked pickups of the offseason. Granted, it was only a minor league deal, but the Cubs followed that up by adding Hector Neris to a one-year deal as Craig Counsell is starting to see his bullpen take shape.

Things didn't stop there, as Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins continued to look for talent and pieces that, in the minors, could help with the bullpen depth. You saw that when they added Blake Weiman on a minor league deal, and then a few hours later, the Cubs added Sam McWilliams, as the minor league acquisitions are starting to come at a more frantic pace.

Although the fans would love to see some more MLB activity take place, this organization is known for minor league flyer deals and reclamation projects. This McWilliams signing has that same feeling as he is being added to what will be a crowded Minor League camp for what could be a reclamation project.

Considering Julian Merryweather and Mark Leiter Jr's success last season, you have to like the Cubs for taking chances on some players, but you can't expect those results to happen all the time. However, this is what the Cubs do when we get this late in free agency, and honestly, there is no reason not to try it.

Initially a Philadelphia Phillies prospect 10 years ago, the 28-year-old McWilliams has had an interesting journey, to say the least, and one that will be curious to follow as camp gets going. Shortly after his career started, McWilliams was traded to the Tampa Rays, where he worked his way through the system to reach AAA Durham in 2019. He was on the cusp of reaching the majors, but following the COVID season, McWilliams was a minor league free agent and has bounced around the league ever since.

Things got so frustrating for him in 2022 that he briefly retired before electing to return to the game this past season. It wasn't the MILB or the MLB that he returned to, but instead, the Mexican League, as McWilliams was looking for any team to give him a chance. In what has always been regarded as an offense-heavy league, McWilliams posted a 3.55 ERA across 25 innings this past summer, which isn't bad considering he was out of baseball for an entire season.

He walked 14 and struck out 29, which is a concern, but he did strike out more than a batter per inning, which is what you look for today. Following his season in Mexico, McWilliams continued his comeback effort in the Dominican Winter League, but there are no stats on how this went for the right-hander.

Either way, that is a fascinating story and journey nonetheless, and whether or not he makes the Cubs minor league roster, being able to come back after a year off isn't easy to do. In terms of his overall body of work, there is a limited amount of information on him, but what we do have leads us to believe he will be a AAA relief option with a high upside.

Standing at 6-7 and weighing 230 pounds, McWilliams is not only an imposing figure but can create deception with his release, making it difficult to see the pitch. Across his eight seasons in the minors, McWilliams has appeared in 154 games; oddly enough, most were starts. His 34-45 record isn't anything exciting, but his 4.41 ERA is better than the league average as he continued to hold his own.

He also walked 238 and struck out 517, as a lack of command has hampered him at times throughout his career. Given his height, McWilliams is able to generate a downward plane on the ball as his 92 MPH heater acts like a sinker. He can sometimes get up to 94 and has topped out at 96. He also has a change-up and breaking ball mixed with that fastball, but is still figuring out how to mix and match those pitches.

Comment on this story
Send Feedback to Dustin Riese: Email | Comment
Post your comments!
Subject (Replies: 0) Author
spacer The Cubs add free-agent righty
CubsHQ News®