This is how I envisioned their bullpen shaking out for 2014 then:
- Closer - Pedro Strop
- 8th - Blake Parker
- 7th - James Russell
- Swing/Spot Starter - Carlos Villanueva
- MR - Hector Rondon
- MR - Justin Grimm
- Long Man - Brooks Raley
And this is what it looks like now according to MLB Depth Charts:
It's a pretty far cry from the collection of question marks the Cubs had back in November. Jose Veras will close which pushes Strop and Russell back into the 7th and 8th innings. Blake Parker is listed as a middle reliever but I think he makes a case for being a high leverage guy by the time Spring Training is over. It's been said quite a bit by a multitude of voices but it bears repeating; a bad bullpen is the easiest thing to fix on a ballclub. We'll have to wait to see the game results to declare this fixed but I'm highly optimistic that this version of the 'pen will be more successful than the 2013 version which relied on Kevin Gregg for a vast stretch of the season.
Let's take a look at the two new guys.
Last year was Veras' best as he posted career bests in WHIP (1.06), ERA (3.02), and strikeout to walk ratio (2.73). Veras is consistently above the 20% threshold when it comes to strikeout ratio but last year saw a slight downtick from previous performance as he dropped from 26.3% to 23.6%. It came with better control, however so it's a dip I think we can live with. Veras will be the Cubs closer entering 2014 as he pushes out Pedro Strop of the role. I would expect Veras to perform more than competently in the role and bring stability to a position that's been the center of much controversy for the Cubs since time immemorial.
2013 was a weird year for Wright's platoon splits. He handled lefties and righties about the same (Vs RHB: .253/.321/.465 - Vs. LHB: .269/.336/.417) which doesn't jive with the rest of his career (Vs. RHB .266/.356/.500 - Vs. LHB .231/.313/.342). We can likely chalk that up to small sample noise considering the career resume. Wright enters the Cubs fray as a LOOGY with an efficent strikeout rate. His presence makes James Russell expendable in my mind which makes me think Wright survives the trade deadline selling spree.