Looking ahead to 2014: The bullpen

Looking ahead to 2014:  The bullpen
Cubs bullpen will see some new faces in 2014

If there was one area in which the Cubs were absolutely a disaster, it was the bullpen.  They weren't able to squeeze one last good year out of Marmol.  Free agent signee Kyuji Fujikawa didn't seize the closer job either, then got hurt for the season.  The Cubs stumbled upon Kevin Gregg and he solidified the bullpen early, but has pitched above and beyond his peripherals and there are signs of regression as we've headed for the last two months of the year.

The Cubs have tried a flyer approach to the bullpen.  Knowing the volatility of relief pitcher performance and the difficulty of projecting that role, the Cubs have brought in as many good arms as possible, hoping they'll find a keeper or two they could add to the pen long term.  So far that hasn't been easy, but there are at least a few arms we can count on for next year.

The Favorites:  These guys have the inside track toward a bullpen gig next year.

  • James Russell
  • Pedro Strop
  • Carlos Villanueva
  • Blake Parker
  • Alberto Cabrera

James Russell has been the most consistent Cubs reliever since the trade of Sean Marshall.  He was used a lot this season and did show some signs of fatigue, but he has bounced back of late.  Carlos Villanueva is signed for another year and will compete for a spot in the rotation.  If he doesn't get a spot, he'll return to the pen, where he's been more effective this season.  Pedro Strop has a big arm, averaging about 96 mph on his FB.  He also has a good slider that has been his put away pitch after setting up with the heat.  Strop has improved his control as a Cub (3.2 walks/9 IP), without sacrificing missing bats (nearly 10Ks per 9 IP).  There is a lot to like about Blake Parker.  He's in his prime years, he throws hard (avg. 92 mph FB) misses bats (9.6 Ks/9IP) and he has the kind of aggressive mentality you like coming out of the pen.  His control has been better at 3.42 walks per 9 IP.  Alberto Cabrera was a starter in AA but has switched back to relief in AAA to keep his innings down.  He's out of options in 2014 so the Cubs have to keep him or loose him.  The bet is they aren't going to lose an arm that can reach 97 with a nasty slider, a solid change, and starter potential.

The holdovers: These pitchers have been effective at times, but may get displaced and upgraded by a veteran addition or two.

  • Michael Bowden
  • Hector Rondon
  • Matt Guerrier
  • Kevin Gregg*

Michael Bowden has a decent shot at sticking.  He's not going to wow you with his stuff or his command but he somehow gets the job done 3.76 ERA (3.23 FIP).  The key to Bowden has been keeping the ball in the park.  He has not allowed a HR this year.  He's also still in that prime year range, so the Cubs may just hold on to him while he is at peak value.  Hector Rondon seems to be recovering his old arm strength as the season wears on, unlike last year's rule 5 pick, Lendy Castillo, who lost velo as the year went on.  Rondon will get a shot but is likely headed to AAA.  Matt Guerrier might be the older, more experienced version of Bowden.  He has really helped stabilize the bullpen, but his age (35) is a factor.  Kevin Gregg is a free agent and said he'd like to be back.  If the Cubs can't replace him internally or on the market, he may be back again, but I think that's unlikely.

Interesting arms to watch:

  • Chang-Yon Lim
  • Arodys Vizcaino
  • Zach Rosscup
  • Eduardo Sanchez
  • Henry Rodriguez

The 37 year old Chang-Yon Lim is shooting up through the minor league ranks on the strength of a 92-95 mph FB that he throws with a deceptive delivery and a sidearm angle.  He could well be a nightmare for RH hitters even at the MLB level.  Arodys Vizcaino may have the best two pitch combo on this entire list but health is an issue.  We may not see him until midseason at the earliest as he'll probably start in AAA.  Zach Rosscup must be added to the 40 man roster or be exposed to the Rule 5 draft, where it seems likely that a AA LHP with his ridiculous K rate (13.6 per 9 IP) will be snatched up quickly.  Rosscup gets it done with a deceptive 90 mph FB, a good curve, and improved control/command.  Has a realistic shot as the second lefty out of the pen but probably goes to AAA unless he wows the Cubs in the spring.  Eduardo Sanchez and Henry Rodriguez throw very hard but command is the key for their success.  If the Cubs can retain them both, they'll each get a shot this spring.

Some more possibilities down on the farm...

  • Chris Rusin
  • Brooks Raley
  • Tony Zych
  • Marcus Hatley
  • Marcos Mateo
  • Brian Schlitter

The Cubs don't have much in the way of MLB ready relief prospects.  Chris Rusin is a possibility as the 2nd lefty out of the pen.  He's the most experienced on this list and his versatility will be an asset as well.  Rusin was a plague on LH hitters at Iowa (2 walks/24 Ks in 27.2 IP) but he was almost as effective against RHP (3.38 ERA vs RH hitters/3.25 vs. LH hitters), so he can be more than just a LOOGY.  If Rusin wins a starting job, then Brooks Raley has a clearer path to that 2nd lefty spot in the bullpen, but he hasn't been particularly effective vs. LH hitters.  Tony Zych has had a successful season but did not dominate and miss bats the way the team hoped.  Marcus Hatley is going to be a minor league FA and the Cubs must decide what to do with the big, athletic hard-throwing (94-95 mph FB, power CB).  They may need to offer him at least a shot at the big league club to keep him.  Marcos Mateo is a hard-throwing RH who has hit as high as 97 when healthy with a hard, occasionally filthy, mid to upper 80s slider.  He's been injury plagued, however, and like Hatley, he'll be a minor league FA.  Brian Schlitter has been the closer at Iowa and has done a remarkable job with pinpoint command and good velo (9 Ks/9IP and 0.93 walks per 9 IP).  He has 27 saves, a 3.35 FIP and is still just 27.  He may get a look this spring as well.

The injured

  • Kyuji Fujikawa
  • Trey McNutt
  • Rafael Dolis

Fujikawa may not return until mid-season while Trey McNutt's status is up in the air for next season at this point.  Rafael Dolis is on the 60 day DL after what was originally termed a "mild forearm strain".  The old "MFS" sometimes becomes a bad UCL which is then followed by the inevitable TJS.  These are likely not guys they are counting on to start the season with the team but perhaps they can make an impact later.

Free agent possibilities:

It's a good year for free agent relief pitchers in that there are many hard-throwing relievers on the market, which may mean the Cubs can get a good one without overpaying.  They should probably stay away from older veterans having big seasons like Grant Balfour and Javier Lopez, who could well be overprice.  But there are a lot of interesting alternatives with the top one being Eduardo Mujica of the Cardinals who has shown impeccable command out of the bullpen (0.39 walks per 9 IP).  He has put up a 1.97 ERA (2.89 FIP) with 30 saves -- and he's just 29 -- so he won't be cheap.

The Cubs liked LHP J.P. Howell last year and we were big fans of Koji Uehara, who's had a ridiculous year at Boston -- so it's unlikely they let him go without a fight.  Pitchers Jose Veras and Oliver Perez (over 12Ks/9 IP) were in demand this offseason as well.

The Cubs could go with undervalued veterans such as Matt Belisle (3.08 FIP, 2.03 walks/9IP) or flyers such as Joba Chamberlain (who is throwing as hard as ever) or injury reclamations such as LHP Bill Bray, Jesse Crain, Ryan Madson, and Nick Massett.

There are lots of options on the market and I'd be surprised if the Cubs didn't add a veteran arm or two to go with the emerging young core of bullpen arms next year.

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  • fb_avatar

    What's going on with Kyler Burke? He's only pitched once in a month. Is he a prospect even? I kind of like him.

  • In reply to Jim Pedigo:

    He's a prospect but probably a longshot and probably a reliever at best. I like him too and wish they would have made him a pitcher earlier. Still has a shot, but as a guy who will be a minor league FA, he may get that with another team.

  • It is refreshing that the bullpen conversation includes numerous strong armed options within the Cubs organization! It's just reinforces the great job that has been done to turn around a farm system that was just recently was among the worst.

  • In reply to jaxx51:

    Agreed. At least the Cubs have good arms now that at least have a chance to be good.

  • Another top analysis, John.
    These reports and this site should be required reading for some beat writers, e.g. from today's Levine chat:

    Eric (Work)
    Lots is being said about the young cubs positional prospects lately, tell me something about the best young arms in the cubs system and where/when they project in the majors.
    Bruce Levine (1:06 PM)
    Pierce Johnson is one. He's coming quickly through the system. Can't tell you about a lot of other great ones, but there's some quality coming from the last two drafts.

    Someone needs to do his homework.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Thanks. Kind of a vague answer from Bruce there. He wasn't prepared for that question so he probably should have answered it.

  • Absolutely right that bullpen was a disaster. Even with our pitiful offense/RISP average, our starting pitching was among best in the NL, but our bullpen blew one game after the other. But for the bullpen, I really think we coulda, woulda been at or slightly over .500 in early to mid July, and that would have put a lot of pressure on FO to buy, not sell. Of course, that's anathema for those looking toward next year's draft and a protected pick. Oh well. It's all about 2017, rather than the here and now.

    John, let's assume: 1) Gregg ain't coming back and 2) there's no closer FA brought in. Who is our closer next year? Strop? Cabrera?

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    In scenario 2) I would think Strop would get first shot, maybe in competition with Parker. Cabrera and Fujikawa would probably be in the mix midseason if the no one nails down the job.

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    Is Mike Olt the second coming of Ian Stewart? What is his problem? Vision still or has he just topped out talent wise? Never wanted him in Chicago. Don't think he'll be anything. Would like to see Vitters playing 3rd base for the Cubs now. Timing is right. Would also like to see how Lake looks at 3rd in the majors. What do you think?

  • In reply to Jim Pedigo:

    I think it's a good gamble. This is a throw away year for him. I'm giving him at least another year before I give up.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Completely agree. He's had anything but a "normal year" with the concussion, leading to the vision problem, getting the problem corrected, regain timing, then got traded and is trying to become comfortable with his new team. I'm not saying he's going to be the next All Star third basemen or anything but I think people should at least give him a chance before writing him off from this strange year.

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    In reply to Cubswin2015:

    I'll give him the year but I'd like to put Vitters one spot higher on the depth chart/tryout list than Olt. Vitters has put in his time, he deserves more than the cuppa coffee he got in the majors to show what he's got.
    (Although I'd still like to know why he left his latin winter league team early last year)

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Vitters is very likely a distant 2nd behind Olt on the 3B depth chart and will probably be passed by Villanueva too. I'm not sure Vitters future is even as a starting 3B anymore. Time is running out for him.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Vitters showed each level took him a learning curve... what's to say that's not how it could work in the bigs? even as a LF?

  • In reply to Burnsie25:

    I really want Vitters to succeed but here is a quick, honest assessment based on what I know on and off the field from observations and a few I've spoken with about him...

    He's done a substantial portion of his damage against LHP and he's a substandard defender at any position, especially 3B. LF is a position that carries the burden of greater expectations with the bat. Since most teams have LF'ers who produce offensively, then the bar is even higher for Vitters as far as his offensive production is concerned. He's not going to make up value defensively because he's just not a great athlete.

    I'm not ruling him out, but he has a lot of obstacles to overcome. One of them is staying in shape and staying healthy, another is to continue improving his approach. The game came easy to Vitters as a young player and I'm not sure he ever realized how hard he had to work to stay at that level as the competition intensifies. It's not too late for him, but he needs to work on getting ahead of the game instead of always trying to catch up to it.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Thanks again!

  • In reply to Cubswin2015:

    Hoping he'll just give them good D, power, and good AB. If Olt can do that, I'll be very happy with him and there's a good chance he sticks at 3B.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    This from Tim Dierkes's chat today on MLBTR:

    Comment From ROBOCOP
    Which prospect traded this deadline do you believe will have the biggest impact on their new team in the majors?
    Tim Dierkes: Does Mike Olt count? I'll take him.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:


  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I thought so too, and I wasn't an Olt-acquisition fan -- but I am sure pulling for him to succeed.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm kind of torn on this. I know what you mean about giving him time, and his ceiling is still impressive. (And I do remember how people gave up on Adrian Beltre after his time with the Mariners -- much more established than Olt is now.)

    Having said that, I always wanted Odor more than Olt and, if they could have had him instead, I think this was a bad trade. Odor doesn't have Olt's upside, but he looks like he's going to be a major league second baseman, and a pretty good one. Olt's ice cold start doesn't make me feel much better about the trade.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Odor is a nice player but like you said, the ceiling isn't the same. All things being equal, you tend to go for the guy who can give you impact, especially at a hard to fill position like 3B. Cubs have no shortage for 2B candidates who are as good or better than Odor. Don't get me wrong. I'd like to have him too, but I wouldn't blame them if they preferred Olt given the greater need, his proximity and potential for greater impact.

  • No love for Casey Coleman?

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I think that ship has sailed, but you're probably right that he should at least be on the list. Better out of the pen, but he's a middle reliever at best.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I think his upside will be a long reliever - possible swing man for us...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Maybe, but he hasn't exactly been given the opportunity this year when the bullpen was horrific. And he didn't make the team despite a great spring. I'm not sure there's much more he can do. Seems to me the writing is on the wall for him and that he'll end up in another organization, where he will surely reach his modest potential.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'd be okay if they traded him for a high risk/high reward low level long shot....

  • I was not impressed with Rosscup when I saw him the other day in Jax. He's okay vs. LH, but a MLB RH will destroy his offerings. He needs some more refinement to his command. His stuff is better than Rusin, but he needs to polish it up a bit...

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    It makes you wonder why he hasn't been promoted to Iowa. If Cubs really wanted to see how his stuff would play at higher levels, ahead of a 40-man decision, you would think a promote to Iowa is a logical step. It makes me think he won't be protected, and isn't that highly regarded.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    His stuff isn't special but hitters simply don't pick him up well. He's the anti-Rafael Dolis who has great stuff but hitters pick him up easily.

    Whether that translates is a big question mark -- as is his recently improved command. In many ways, he's like Jeff Beliveau, who also relied on deception, missed a ton of bats, and improved his command -- but Beliveau lost his command again in AAA and the majors. I think if Rosscup can continue to have at least average command, he'll get hitters out at any level, but that's a big if.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    From what I saw the other night (teeny tiny small sample) the LH's had trouble picking him up and he is indeed very deceptive. The RH had no trouble. He was not deceptive at all. In fact, his confidence was so rattled after giving up a very loud 450ft strike (just inside the foul pole) that he couldn't command his stuff any more. Then with that runner on 1B, he forgot about him... A LHP facing first and JAX's 1B on first, steals on him and gets such a huge jump that Lopez's throw wasn't even close.... But the box score showed him striking out the side and giving up one single....

    His future looks like a Loogy....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    It's not like RH hitters have been picking him up all year. They're hitting .204 against him -- and he has struck out 11.8 per 9 IP of RH hitters. Hard to say they're seeing him a whole lot better.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Well that's why I put the "teeny tiny sample" disclaimer on it. Obviously, his body of work as a whole is much better than he showed me that night. Then again, his "body of work" from that night was "he struck out the side". He just didn't look as good as that implies.

    All I'm saying is those were high stress outs. If he outperforms everybody else - I'm a happy dude. But It's difficult to get too carried away with his numbers after he failed my eyeball test....

  • fb_avatar

    What is the plan for Arodys Vizcaino, I wonder? Cubs wanted to convert him to starter, but I wonder if that plan will be shelved. He needed this year to build stamina. Tough call.

    Not just these guys, but coming up are older prospects like Dayan Diaz or Riviero who project as bullpen guys....I prefer spending money on other areas, and filling bullpen from within

  • In reply to Zonk:

    My guess is they'll go bullpen with him first and then consider gradually working him up to be a starter the next season as they did with Samardzija and Cabrera.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I think they'll bring a veteran or two but won't overpay for one with great results last season. I think one of the flyers, injured guys, and/or maybe a steady under-the-radar veteran could be brought in to stabilize the bullpen.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    He isn't a conversion to a starter. He has always been a starter. There has just been question as to whether he can actually hold up long term as a starter and so would be better of in the pen.

    but given that he will have missed 2 years, his innings will probably be severely limited next year so I would think he would spend the majority of the season in the bullpen in the minors.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    If the Cubs end up dealing Villanueva before next season, then he could fill that role. It could be away to break him in slowly and gradually build his innings up.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I think he spends most if not all of next year in the minors. I can't see them wanting to add service time at the mlb level while he builds up arm strength. He would have to be pitching lights out at Iowa for them to bring him up I think.

  • If history is a guide, be very, very careful about signing free agent relievers, especially those coming off big years. They rarely live up to their cost and length of contract.

  • In reply to Jim Hickman:

    I'm sure they will. I don't see them doing long term deals for guys who had great results last year, but I can see them with shorter term deals for lesser known guys who have good peripherals and good scouting reports.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Jim Hickman:

    totally agree, no more Matt Karchner/Rick Aguillera trades. On the other hand the current bullpen is a mess, they need someone that's not just a warm body, I don't want to go another year throwing rookies, waiver claims and injured guys out there to see who can stick.

  • I still think Cabrera will be a starter. I admit, he could regress and trip over his @$%& in ST and then be relegated to the BP... but if he has the command/control he had in TEN this year. He's our 5th starter with #3 upside.

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    bowden's overall numbers are not horrible but he seems not to be able to handle game-critical situations. Rendon is horrible, Guerrier's history is not a promising sign for his long term usefullness. I'd just as soon not see any of them any more. Bull pen failure has been a key setback in the team's progression from 100 loses to .500 - and while many people here discount the value of stepwise improvement ("81 wins vs 71 wins - who cares?" mentality) I think it's crucial to the motivation, morale and development of young players (not to mention fans) to see their 7 or 8 inning efforts rewarded by a 9 inning win. FO needs to focus hard on bull pen arms this off season.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Ive never been a Bowden fan, and for the exact reason you just mentioned. You cant put him in a tight situation, he always seems to fail when under pressure.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    He's a low leverage guy, a middle/long reliever who is ultimately replaceable, but for now he gives them cheap innings in that low leverage role.

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    On another note, do you think the Cubs will make an effort to sign Brian McCann this offseason? He'll be 30 years old, he's LH, great w a staff, and has excellent offensive numbers (to wit - OPS, Pit/PA). Since our catching department is so barren, he could be a great piece to the puzzle.

    Will they make an effort and what will be his cost?

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    In reply to Chris Trengove:

    He is interesting. One thing it will cost you though is a draft pick; he'll get a qualifying offer for sure. One factor is whether we get a protected pick

  • In reply to Chris Trengove:

    I'll touch more on this when we look ahead to the position players, but it depends on what they think of Castillo long term and whether they think they can win next year. I think the Cubs like Castillo as their potential long term guy and don't want to hamper his development. There's a lot of risk. Even if the Cubs didn't have a decent catcher (Castillo is just a "win" less valuable than McCann), he'd probably give them pause as a 30 year old catcher who hasn't been able to stay healthy lately. He'll be 31-32 when Cubs are truly going to be competing. Perhaps in a different scenario he makes a ton of sense, but not as much as the one the Cubs are in now. If they do pick him up, it says a lot about what they think of Castillo and their chances to win next year.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    McCann is going to get a lot of money (probably from an AL team who can afford to tack an extra year or two onto the contract) looking to add some offense at a position teams are always looking to upgrade for a title run. He's one of the few bats available this offseason. Cubs will not be in on the bidding for him because as John said, Castillo is developing, and fits better with the team's timeline. If McCann would be willing to sign for two years, I'd love to team him with Castillo and let Castillo learn from him. But he will get 4+ years from some team.

  • fb_avatar

    Joba Chamberlain and Ryan Madson are the two names I was thinking about when I looked at the list of FA a couple weeks ago.

  • In reply to Ken Roucka:

    High risk fliers but great talent and great arms.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Agreed. I think one or both could be worth the gamble

  • In reply to Ken Roucka:

    Agreed. Shouldn't overspend on them but if the deal is right I would be happy to see us pick up either of these guys.

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    For what it's worth, Rafael Dolis is out of options after this year. He didn't make this list as a possibility.

    My money though would be on him getting a DFA after the season.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I should probably add him to the injury list. Have a hunch he's headed toward TJ surgery.

  • fb_avatar

    Was Dolis an intentional omission? (I can see the case for it.)

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    It was more of an oversight. Not really counting on him, but he should have been on the injured list. Just added him.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John - Question... if he needs TJ again, why not do it sooner rather than later. Only thing that comes to mind is they don't plan on keeping him.

    But again, if so, why not jettison him now. Or are they prohibited from doing so?

  • In reply to MoneyBoy:

    The TJ is my speculation, so I don't want to put too much into that right now. If it's TJ then they'll probably keep him because he can stay on the 60 day DL, not cost them a 40 man roster spot, and they don't have to get rid of a guy with his arm for nothing.

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    Just saw the above. Never mind. Agree on (second) TJ.

  • I must admit a bit of a rooting interest for Schlitter. Pitched for the Cubs in 2010, got injured, but worked his way back. Chicago boy. It would be a nice story.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    He just keeps paying his dues. I think he stays, goes to AAA and if he has success again and the Cubs need an arm, he may get his second chance.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Very reminiscent of Parker, who paid his dues for years and seemed to get injured every time he might get a shot and finally it has paid off for him this year.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I can see some similarities between the two.

  • Anything on the apparent news that E. Sanchez was sent down?

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    In reply to MoneyBoy:

    To make room for Thomas

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Yes. Thomas Neal put on the active 25 man roster. Cubs had 13 pitchers.

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    Off the topic a bit but do we think the Cubs take a shot at Jason Bay as our next sign and trade type of guy for next season? He'll be 35 in September....

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Unfortunately, I think Bay is done. The roster spot is probably more valuable at this point.

  • The Cubs bullpen has blown 23 saves this season, which is the most in the majors. The league average is 13 blown saves. They have converted on a league-low 54% of their save opportunities. The league average is 69%. Can you believe that? 54%? That basically implies that every-time there is a save-able situation, there's a 50-50 shot the team wins.This off-season, rebuilding the bullpen should be a focal point of the organization.

    James Russell has been Sean Marshall 2.0, and Pedro Strop has been stellar since being acquired, but there is not one arm in that bullpen that I can feel comfortable throwing out there on a consistent basis knowing that the job can get done. I understand that the Cubs are in a rebuilding phase where they likely won't throw out top-dollar to relievers like Rafael Soriano, Jonathan Papelbon, etc. but I think that investing in relievers (not necessarily closers) is the way the Cubs can win ball-games. If the Cubs were to NOT have blown 5 or 6 of those games, and be SLIGHTLY worse than league average, they'd be hoovering pretty close to .500. That's a big deal.

  • In reply to Stevo:

    I do think they need to bring in a veteran or two -- and like you say, they need to do it wisely and not overpay for it.

  • In reply to Stevo:

    I hear that man! If only we had a lock down bull pen...really good feeling about the Feldman steal! That's going to help the bullpen a lot one way or another.

  • With money to spend, a slew of SP candidates (Shark, EJAx, Wood, Villanueva, Arrieta, Rusin, Grimm, Baker maybe?), as well as the depth you've mentioned in the middle of the BP, Id like them to make a serious run at a legit closer & especially Edward Mujica. Strop & Mujica in the 8th & 9th would form a nice 1-2 punch for a number of years.

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    The way Chang Yon Lim is pitching at AAA, plus reports on stuff/deception, I have to think he's coming soon to a bullpen near you. If anyone is DL'ed, in fact, I think he might get the call. Only thing holding him back is that he isn't on 40-man, but we still have alot of DFA candidates, IMO.....

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I'm really excited to see him. Scout I know liked him better than Fujikawa.

  • Cabrera looks like a starter to me. He was terrific for the Smokies this year. I would like to see him given a rotation spot and pitch his way out of it before making him a releaver. The Cubs already know that they are not going give up on that arm.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I think he can definitely be a starter and I hope he gets that opportunity next year.

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    In reply to 44slug:

    I also hope that he gets a chance to start, but one of the cool things here is how the upper level pitching is starting to come together. Clearly, we aren't quite at the level of St. Louis yet (who is?), but options for the rotation (Samardzija, Jackson, Wood, Arrieta, Grimm, Villanueva, Rusin, and Cabrera) mean that one or two will wind up in the bullpen, where they will be plus. It's similar to how St. Louis has used Carlos Martinez this year, though, obviously, this isn't quite as high powered. As more and more pitching filters through, this only gets more dramatic. (As an extremely optimistic example, if Pierce Johnson forces the issue with an outstanding first couple months in Tennessee, and the team is in contention, he could slot into the back of the bullpen.)

  • The way the Cubs seem to be setting up the bullpen for 2014 is probably my favorite part about this year. The bullpen is almost solely responsible for this not being an average fringe contender. The pile of interesting, hard-throwing arms who could easily be envisioned as having breakouts in 2014 is pretty promising.

    I'll throw another name out there, 25-year-old Cuban Armando Rivero. He got a $3.1m signing bonus last offseason on the basis of a very live fastball.

    The early results weren't great at Kane County, but something seems to have clicked. His last three appearances have totaled 6 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 2 BB, 14 K. At his age and stuff, he could easily be in the mix next year.

  • In reply to Kyle:

    Agreed. It's usually an afterthought but it might well be the key to the Cubs improvement next year.

    Rivero has looked beasty the last couple of times I've seen him and the recent stats certainly support that. He struggled with his delivery early on and at first I wondered what they saw in him. He threw across his body and didn't finish his delivery, landing upright and losing about 3-5 mph on his FB. Obviously that turned out to be a quick fix and he's displaying the kind of arm strength and velo we've heard back from his days in Cuba. He's been 94-96 for the most part after being 90-91 when I first saw him.

  • my favorites for next year-Vizcaiano, Rosscup, Russell,Carlos V Lim and the surprise might be a Tony Zych or an Armando Rivero,

  • Personally I wouldn't mind to not have any of those "holdover" guys in the pen next year... If Rondon can improve his command over the Winter I would be open to it but I always hold my breath when he comes in. Would like to see Lim get a shot. Wouldn't mind a run at Madsen or Joba either like you mentioned, at right price of course

  • In reply to Cubswin2015:

    I think those guys are in a holding pattern depending on what they pick up in the offseason and whether or not one or more of the younger arms emerge. They are probably more like a fallback plan right now.

  • I like Brian Schlitter as next year's surprise closer. He comes right after hitters with hard strikes.

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    Borbon outright to Iowa. Kinda surprises me, to be honest. Thought he was destined for a release.

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    Olt 0-for-1 with 2 BB today.

    I've been watching him. The results haven't been spectacular today, but he's had 3 very good at-bats. Just isn't making solid contact.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    That's pretty much what I've seen. He looks out of rhythm a bit. I think he'll be okay...maybe it's hope.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    and followed by his first Cub HR!

  • In reply to Burnsie25:


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    Brockmeyer to Iowa????? They're taking full advantage of this couple miles away thing.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Sure. Why not? These guys (Lockhart, Brockmeyer) are more polished at the plate and should be able to hold their own over a short sample size.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Just out of curiousity, doesn't that contradict what you were saying yesterday about Bryant to AA?

    I actually agreed with you about not moving Bryant up so quickly, I'm just curious as to what the difference is here. Is it because there is less to lose with Brockmeyer?

  • In reply to Burnsie25:

    No, because these are short term moves and they'll head back to an appropriate level when things get straightened out, much like Gioskar Amaya did last season. And that Lockhart and possibly Brockmeyer can hold their own at AAA for a few games doesn't prove anything about their ability to compete there long term, nor does it really do anything for their development as players. Anything they do with Bryant has to be first and foremost about his development, not as a quick fix for an injury situation.

    It actually wouldn't bother me to see Bryant get a late look at a higher league, but if that happens he should start at an appropriate level next season no matter what they do with him this year. I'm against moving up Bryant to AA "to see what he can do" and then keep him there in the event of short sample success. I want them to make any long-term decision about promotion strictly based on where they think he stands on his development as a ballplayer.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Totally makes sense. Thanks!

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I saw that, too. Anybody have any idea what that call is about?

  • In reply to Burnsie25:

    Per Carrie Muskat, I-Cubs catcher Luis Flores was hit by a follow-through swing on the back of the head and suffered a concussion. So they needed a backup catcher pronto.
    p.s. Barret Loux is now on the DL with right shoulder strain.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Saw that. Will add that to minor league recaps tonight.

  • Another great write-up, John. Thanks. Assuming Gregg won't be back next season, or even if he is, I'd really like to see them try the closer role on Strop and see if it fits. He's got above average "closer" stuff and seems to pitch really tough. Seems to me like that'd be a good chance for the team to add value thereand hopefully he'd be a guy who might pitch a little better once he's officially anointed for the first time. I've also seen an inordinate amount of Mariners games this year for some reason. Really like Oliver Perez right now. He's been a really tough AB for the last two years and I'd like to see him get added to the mix. I think a lefty with better stuff than Russell's would really help out. Looking forward to the next one.

  • Nice post. What are the odds that Cabrera sticks as a starter? Seems like there might be a spot after Shark, Wood, Jackson and Arrieta. I'm not sold on Rusin and (as you said) Villanueva's probably better in the pen.

    Could there be a mini-derby among Villanueva, Rusin and Cabrera next ST, with the other guys heading to the pen?

  • In reply to therealelgato:

    I think he has a very real shot at sticking as a starter and will get starter innings next spring. I think a mini-derby as you outlined would be a very likely scenario if the Cubs don't pick up anybody else. I'd also add Grimm to that derby, by the way.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Good call on Grimm. Forgot him.

  • I think Bruce Levine needs to get tested for something himself. Any ideas an what this comment was about?

    Mike (Ingleside )
    What's the plan with Arrieta? He pitched well here and in his last few starts in Iowa (Including 11 K in 5 IP his last time out)

    Bruce Levine
    (1:30 PM)
    I think he'll be up here within the next week or two and in the rotation. Hopefully somebody claims Villanueva and that opens up a rotation spot.

  • I agree with those who feel that the bullpen blowups can have a demoralizing effect on the younger players. To me, this is one of those areas that if management wants to start compiling a better win/loss record (as they will have to do at some point, instead of worrying about draft position), they can improve quickly and relatively cheaply. What I don't understand is the view that we should be so concerned about "overpaying" for relievers or making sure that if we do take a flier, that we do so only at the "right price." This is a big market team, and spending a few extra short term dollars to try to build a functional bullpen does not affect their bigger plans or restrain their flexibility. Yes, it applies to not spending $125MM on a Josh Hamilton, for example, but spending, say, 5MM on a Joba Chamberlain when nobody else is willing to pay more than $3MM for him is not something that should concern us fans, especially since it wont cost the team draft picks or prospects. I continue to be amazed at the focus of some fans on the spending issue. I love this FO, and agree with their overall approach whole-heartedly, but for goodness sake, this is the Cubs and they have mountains of money. Spending a few extra dollars unnecessarily (when view through a pure market approach) is not going to cause any long term problems. We are not the Royals.

  • In reply to JerryMartin28:


    The Cubs play in a big market but don't have big market income yet. They are in the middle of the pack as far as income goes. AND they don't have mountains of money.

  • A good bullpen and Rizzo and Castro hitting like they did last year and the Cubs could be decent next year. Rizzo's line drive percentage is way down this year and is probably responsible for his .267 BABIP, is that pitchers going after him differently or has he changed his swing?

  • In reply to Ike03:

    Agreed. They may not be as far as we think.

  • My shot in the dark is they end up bringing in Howell (they have to bring in a second lefty or just commit to Rusin or Rosscup) and Belisle next year.

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    I really liked Mateo before his injury. Where is his velocity? Always saw him as a set-up 8th inning guy.

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