Yankee bond: How a Cubs coach helped mold prospect Hayden Wesneski before trade
The Cubs acquired Wesneski from the Yankees for reliever Scott Effross before the trade deadline.
M ILWAUKEE — During the lost 2020 minor-league season, then-Yankees pitching prospect Hayden Wesneski would talk on the phone with Daniel Moskos, then a pitching coach in their farm system, for so long that Moskos’ wife started giving him grief about it.
Cameron Moskos, a physician’s assistant, would get home from work to find Daniel on the phone and feign exasperation: ‘‘Oh, my goodness. Is that Wesneski again?’’
Wesneski laughed when he was reminded of those calls.
‘‘There were a few times his whole family was in the car when I called him,’’ Wesneski recounted in a phone interview Thursday. ‘‘And, like, that didn’t help.’’
The day before the trade deadline last month, when the Yankees sent Wesneski to the Cubs for sidearmer Scott Effross, Moskos, now the Cubs’ assistant pitching coach, was one of the first to call him.
After the trade, Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said he talked with several teams who were interested in acquiring Effross. In the end, the Cubs were able to send a rookie reliever having a standout season to the Yankees for a promising starting-pitching prospect.
Compared to the Cubs’ last rebuild, their budding prospects this time lean more heavily to the pitching side. And strengthening that group at the deadline with the addition of Wesneski made sense.
For Wesneski, the news that he had been traded to the Cubs caught him off-guard.
‘‘As a young guy in the Yankees’ organization around the trade deadline, you’re kind of expected to have your phone on you,’’ Wesneski said. ‘‘At any moment, you could get traded. It’s a real lingering thought, and they make jokes about it in the locker room.’’
The players kept their eyes on rumors, but the Cubs hadn’t been on their radar as a likely destination.
For Wesneski, going to the Cubs also meant reuniting with Moskos.
‘‘It was one of the things that was in the front of my mind, not in the back,’’ Wesneski said. ‘‘Because he’s really that good, in my opinion. And I was kind of upset when he left because I liked him so much.’’
Their time together began during spring training in 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the minor-league season. Wesneski was in Moskos’ player group, and they both reported early.
Wesneski asked what it would take for him to get to the next level. Moskos saw that he was neglecting his lower half. They could get more velocity out of his frame.
‘‘The introduction of the weighted balls, PlyoCare drills, forced him to feel some things in his delivery he wasn’t able to feel when he was just going through pitching,’’ Moskos told the Sun-Times. ‘‘So he started to incorporate a little bit more of his lower half, cleaning up a couple of inefficiencies. But, like, his delivery was still very good.’’
Wesneski was wary about working with weighted balls. His mechanics weren’t as sound as they are now, and he didn’t want to get hurt. But Moskos talked him through it.
When minor-league baseball returned in 2021, Moskos served as the pitching coach at Double-A Somerset. And Wesneski met him there in the middle of his climb from High-A to Triple-A during the course of the season.
‘‘In between starts, he’s charting in the dugout . . . every game because he wants to get better,’’ Moskos said. ‘‘He’s always coming up with a plan of attack for his bullpens in between, like, what didn’t he like about his last outing? What can he improve on? So it’s all practice reps that are leading toward in-game execution and helping his performance there. He’s just got a good head on his shoulders, and he wants it.’’
Wesneski could be reunited with Moskos in the majors this season. The Cubs will have to add him to their 40-man roster by the end of the year to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. And he has settled down in his last couple of starts at Triple-A Iowa, allowing a combined one run and three hits in 10 innings.
Wesneski said he’s trying not to let himself get distracted by the possibility of a call-up.
‘‘You try to take it like each start, five days at a time,’’ he said.
Later, on the subject of his goals for this season, he said: ‘‘Yes, I would like to make my big-league debut.’’