Right-hander Mark Leiter Jr. has elected free agency, according to his transactions tracker at MLB.com. He had been designated for assignment and outrighted by the Cubs in recent days but had the right to reject the assignment by virtue of having been previously outrighted in his career.
Leiter, 32 in March, got some time in the majors in 2017 and 2018 with the Phillies and Blue Jays. He struggled in those seasons and was outrighted by the Blue Jays after the latter campaign. That proved to be an inopportune moment to lose his roster spot as he required Tommy John surgery in the spring of 2019. He then had to undergo the lengthy rehab process while not accruing any service time.
The Cubs signed him to a minor league deal prior to the 2022 campaign and he ended up having a pretty decent season after cracking the roster in April. He tossed 67 2/3 innings in the big leagues with a 3.99 ERA. He struck out 25.9% of the batters that came to the plate, walked 8.9% of them and got grounders on 48.9% of balls in play.
Despite those good results, he got squeezed off the roster, perhaps due to the fact that he burned his final option year in 2022. That means he would have to hang onto his spot all season long or else be designated for assignment, which the Cubs got out of the way early. All players who have a previous career outright have the right to reject outright assignments in favor of free agency, which Leiter has now done. None of the other 29 teams were willing to claim him off waivers, which suggests he’ll likely be limited to minor league deals. However, he can at least now seek out the organization that he thinks provides the best path back to the big leagues or is the best fit for some other reason. If he earns a roster spot at some point, he can be retained by a club for future seasons since he has between two and three years of MLB service time.