There is no question the Cubs are looking for bullpen both in the short term and the long term. It's not exactly been terrible, but on a team filled with so many strengths, it is the only thing that can qualify as a potential weakness.
There are stories that the Cubs are indeed scouting Yankees relievers, but bear in mind that scouting does not equate to trade talks. There have been no names discussed. The Yankees aren't even sure to be sellers at this point. They are just 5 1/2 games out and have been playing well of late. It is more about due diligence. Obviously the Cubs would have interest in arms like Andrew Miller or even Delin Betances.
In the meantime, the Cubs will look for other ways to shore up their bullpen and if an inexpensive opportunity arises that pans out, it could save the Cubs from making an expensive move down the road. At the very least, you acquire depth at AAA.
That is the thinking when the Cubs picked up R.J. Alvarez off of waivers. Alvarez, formerly of the Athletics, has a strong arm, averaging about 95 mph and can touch 98. He has a second plus pitch in a slider. As you might expect, the issue with Alvarez has always been commanding those pitches. Why else would you let a 25 year old with that kind of arm strength go for nothing?
There also have been questions about Alvarez's durability. He does have a max effort delivery with the kind of short arm action you often see with relievers. Sure enough, Alvarez did get hurt and had surgery on his elbow in March. Obviously this was a move with an eye toward next season, but a chance worth taking for the long term.
Alvarez did pitch at the MLB level, most recently in 2015 with the Athletics. He posted a 9.90 ERA with 5.85 walks per 9 IP, but the number that attracted him to the Cubs were those velocities and the 10.35 Ks per 9 IP. He's a power arm that will miss bats -- if he can throw strikes. The Cubs will see what they have and if there is a tweak or two they can make. If it works out...great. If it doesn't, there really isn't much cost to have a look.
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