Cubs Get Righty José Cuas from Royals for Nelson Velázquez

This one was a little unexpected, though the writing was on the wall when Nelson Velázquez remained in Triple-A as Christopher Morel stayed in Chicago as a DH/utilityman. Velázquez had shown flashes of being an impact bat and he hit three homers in just 32 plate appearances this season, but he was a man without a chance at everyday playing time.

I’m going to cop to knowing absolutely nothing about righty reliever José Cuas other than the fact that he debuted last season and has appeared in 92 games with a 4.08 ERA and a lot of walks. A sinker-heavy guy with a slider that has been a far sight from good, the 29-year-old must be displaying some traits the Cubs think they can exploit.

It’s not his 93 mph velocity or the fact that he’s getting hammered to the tune of a 14.8% barrel rate that is among the worst in MLB. He’s getting a lot of whiffs when he isn’t being hit and he has two options left, so this has to be a matter of the Cubs buying a lottery ticket while clearing some room in the Iowa outfield for Pete Crow-Armstrong, who was just promoted Monday.

Cuas also has a sidearm delivery the Cubs could use a little funk. His fastball Stuff+ score of 151 ranks third among all pitchers with at least 40 innings this season, but he throws it less than 17% of the time and could probably benefit from a change in usage and sequencing.

Either way, this definitely feels like more of a procedural move than something meant to truly have impact.

Here’s the press release:

The Chicago Cubs today acquired right-handed pitcher José Cuas (kwas) from the Kansas City Royals for outfielder Nelson Velázquez.

Cuas, 29, has gone 7-2 with one save, 15 holds and a 4.08 ERA (36 ER/79.1 IP) in 92 games, all but one as a reliever, for the Kansas City Royals since making his major league debut last season. He has walked 45 and struck out 86, good for an average of 9.8 strikeouts per 9.0 innings.

The six-foot three-inch Cuas is 3-0 with four holds and a 4.54 ERA (21 ER/41.2 IP) in 45 relief appearances (one start) for Kansas City this season. He pitched to a 1.86 ERA (2 ER/9.2 IP) with a .200 opponent batting average in 10 relief appearances from June 28-July 28, walking six with 12 strikeouts.

Cuas was selected by Milwaukee in the 11th round of the 2015 First-Year Player Draft as an infielder and was converted to a pitcher by the Brewers following the 2017 season. In five minor league seasons on the mound, he is 13-7 with a 2.64 ERA (38 ER/129.1 IP) in 89 relief appearances, walking 39 batters and striking out 121. He signed with the Royals as a minor league free agent in June of 2021.

Velázquez, 24, appeared in 13 games for Chicago this season, hitting .241 (7-for-29) with two doubles, three home runs and six RBI. With Iowa this season, he batted .253 (74-for-292) with 15 doubles, 16 home runs and 44 RBI in 74 contests. Velázquez was selected by Chicago in the fifth round of the 2017 First-Year Player Draft out of the PJ Education School in Puerto Rico.

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