Report: Cubs to Add RHP Dillon Maples, IF Mike Freeman as Rosters Expand

The first of the names above should come as a surprise to no one, as Dillon Maples has set the Cubs organization ablaze since adding a slider and putting it all together as a reliever this year. Mike Freeman, on the other hand, is about as nondescript as his name and has gotten next to no coverage since the Cubs picked him up after the Dodgers DFA’d him to make room for Yu Darvish.

Well, unless you count Freeman’s behind-the-back wizardry the other day. But with Addison Russell suffering a setback in his rehab, the Cubs need to have someone around to give Javy Baez a rest. Freeman, a 30-year-old journeyman, has played in 41 games with the Mariners, D-backs, and Dodgers, but has only accumulated 63 total plate appearances at the MLB level.

It’s obvious that his role is that of defensive replacement, which could be of great value to the Cubs if Russell is indeed out for much longer (he had an MRI on his foot Thursday and we should know more before long). Javy Baez has been great, but he’ll need a break or three in the next month. And with Ben Zobrist as the primary backup shortstop at this point, any reinforcements are good.

Back to Maples, who Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register was told by one baseball official has one of the best sliders in the game. Not the Cubs organization, mind you, he was talking all of baseball. The trouble with such a potentially devastating pitch is that it typically ends up out of the zone, which results in a lot of walks if fastball command is spotty and hitters can pass on the breaking ball.

The juice definitely looks like it’s worth the squeeze, though, and it’s not like the Cubs have a super consistent bullpen that never walks anyone. Not that they need more of the same, but September gives them a chance to see what Maples can do at the highest level.

That he’s even going to be doing that at all is remarkable in and of itself since the flame-throwing righty almost walked away from baseball last year, as Birch wrote earlier this season. Maples had been demoted back to low-A South Bend and was having a rough go of it. Once a top prospect, he’d be moved to the bullpen after struggles with health and performance.

It was his fifth season in the system and he’d only pitched 7 innings at the advanced-A level. That kind of futility isn’t easy for a guy who came out of high school with an elite fastball and a nasty curve, and it ate away at Maples. He’d get rattled easily and wasn’t displaying either the mental or physical tools to succeed as a pro.

A call to his dad helped him to get his head in the right place and offseason work led to the development of a filthy cutter/slider that has sent him shooting through the system this year. After opening the season at high-A Myrtle Beach, Maples has been promoted twice already and now stands on the verge of achieving a dream he nearly woke up from just a year ago.

Because neither Maples nor Freeman is currently on the 40-man roster, the Cubs will have to clear space there to make room for them. The most likely candidate to be designated is probably Seth Frankoff, a 29-year-old righty with a 4.40 ERA across 116.2 innings. There’s also Jose Rosario, a 27-year-old righty reliever whose season has been abbreviated by injury and who’s gotten mixed results over a decade in the system.

We’ll know for sure once the moves are made official, so stay tuned.

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