Don’t look now, but the Chicago Cubs bullpen is looking pretty good as of late. With recent additions of Wesley Wright and with Jose Veras now in the mix, one of the weakest parts of the 2013 ball club might actually be not half bad in 2014. Veras signed a one year deal with the Cubs worth $4 Million, with an option year in 2015 worth $5.5 Million. Not a bad price for a pitcher who has had his level of success in his Major League career.
— Enrique Rojas/ESPN (@Enrique_Rojas1) December 17, 2013
Veras also receives 750K in incentives based on games finished. @Enrique_Rojas1 had 1st
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) December 17, 2013
Now that he has signed with the Cubs, Veras will now have played on his ninth team in his nine years in the major leagues. In that time frame, he has had a pretty solid career. His 3.84 ERA and 1.310 WHIP for his career are nice, but his nearly 2-1 strike outs to walk ratio is even better. He does not let many men on base in his appearances, which has been a problem for the Cubs pen going back a few years.
I am sure that I do not have to remind you just how bad the pen was last year, or how many games they blew for the Cubs, or help blow because they could rarely score enough to deserve a win, , but this coming year, the bullpen might actually be one of the strongest parts of the team.
You now have three men who will likely be in the hunt for the closer role. In addition to Veras, you have Pedro Strop and if he is ready to go, Arodys Vizcaino. No matter which one of the three comes out of camp as the closer, or if the Cubs decide to do a closer by committee situation, the back end of the bullpen looks really solid. Add in the two left handed relievers the Cubs will have with Wright and James Russell you have a pretty good core.
Other pitchers who have a strong shot of making the pen would be Blake Parker, who might be the odds on favorite out of the rest to earn a spot as the sixth man. Then you would likely see Carlos Villanueva filling the final spot in the bullpen, and acting as the swing starter when the team needs a sixth starter.
Of course, with the claiming of Liam Hendriks and other potential arms of Alberto Cabrera, Brooks Raley, Chris Rusin, Justin Grimm and eventually Kyuji Fujikawa, the bullpen has plenty of upside. The Cubs may actually be able to preserve a win when the starter leaves with the lead.
Even if they are only to keep a handful of wins intact, that will go a long way to getting the Cubs closer to a .500 season, and closer to looking like a real contender.