It’s not a new concept by any stretch, but the dearth of non-Ohtani news on the Cubs front means that Ken Rosenthal’s latest report about their bullpen search (subscription required/recommended) bears sharing. Quite fittingly, the Cubs stuff is buried under 700 words on Giancarlo Stanton and then separate sections on the Pirates, Phillies, and Royals.
Rosenthal eventually gets into the idea that the Cubs are targeting both Brandon Morrow and Mike Minor as potential options at closer should they be unable to bring Wade Davis back. But it might not be an either/or situation, Rosenthal writes.
Right-hander Brandon Morrow is one such target, lefty Mike Minor another, sources say. Both relievers enjoyed breakout seasons in 2017, and both are drawing interest from numerous clubs.
The Cubs, though, do not intend to add simply one reliever; they have multiple holes to fill.
Beyond Davis, the Cubs have to replace Koji Uehara, Brian Duensing, and Hector Rondon, the latter of whom was recently non-tendered. Carl Edwards Jr., Justin Wilson, Mike Montgomery, Pedro Strop, and Justin Grimm — who was actually tendered a 2018 contract — are the holdovers, but none of them have proven reliable enough to lean on regularly in high-leverage situations.
After seeing how thin the ‘pen was throughout the season and during the 2017 playoffs in particular, it figures that the Cubs would go out and try to land at least two relievers who are capable of handling the 9th inning, even if only in a backup capacity. But given Davis’s projected average annual value of around $15-17 million over four years, the lefty/righty combo Rosenthal mentions might be preferable.
Interestingly enough, Morrow and Minor are both former starters who have experienced injury issues that contributed to their respective moves to the bullpen. So caveat emptor and all that, but both have displayed tremendous upside and project to earn around $7 million AAV for three years, maybe four with some incentives. That’s two potential back-end relievers for less than what you’d be paying Davis alone.
And while comparing those options may be a false equivalency, it’s necessary to look at what the fallback options are should Davis be blown away by an offer from another team. Though his overall numbers were excellent, the increasing walk rate and tendency to give up hard contact were cause for concern as the season wore on. So even should they manage to re-sign Davis, it’d be a good idea for the Cubs to further insulate him.
Having as many high-leverage arms in the ‘pen as possible also allows the team to bring Dillon Maples along a little more slowly. It’s been whispered in some circles that the fast-rising phenom with the insane slider could be given a shot to close next season, but it’s a certainty that the Cubs would prefer to let his coffee cool a bit before they get to that point.
With the Winter Meetings less than a week away now and both Stanton and Shohei Ohtani moving quickly toward resolutions, we’re sure to see some serious movement on the free agency front here very soon. I do believe we’ll actually see a decision from Alex Cobb in the next few days as well, but that’s not relevant to this particular situation.
Given the options of Wade Davis and two schmoes or Brandon Morrow/Mike Minor and no “real” closer, which would you rather see at Wrigley in 2018?