The Cubs added even more bullpen depth Tuesday, this time by acquiring righty Travis Lakins from the Red Sox in exchange for either cash or a player to be named later. The 25-year-old reliever debuted with Boston last season and appeared in 16 games with three “starts,” compiling a 3.86 ERA with a 3.64 FIP.
That may not jump off the page, but reading between the lines of his usage gives us a better idea of what the Cubs might be looking for here. Those starts referenced above were as an opener, with Lakins pitching no more than two innings in each before giving way to a bulk pitcher. And lest you go thinking he just got shelled a few times, he allowed no runs on just two hits and two walks against 21 total batters.
Seven of Lakins’ MLB appearances went multiple innings and he pitched to reverse splits, so he’s a good fit for the world of three-batter minimums. He was a starter earlier in his career and has the four-pitch mix to show for it, but his fastball has really played up since moving to the bullpen. There are reports of it touching 98 in relief, though it sits mid-90’s for the most part. While his diving changeup has helped him limit damage from lefties, they tend to walk pretty frequently against him.
An excellent athlete who was recruited to play basketball at Butler, the 6-foot-1 hurler may yet be able to add a little muscle to his 180-pound frame. He’s also got a little less mileage on his arm than you might expect for a former starter, but that’s mainly because stress fractures on the tip of his pitching elbow — don’t freak out, but that’s really similar to what Yu Darvish and Brandon Morrow battled — limited him in 2016 and ’17.
Maybe it’s just that I’ve been conditioned to look on the bright side with all of these low-key pickups, but I actually really like this one. Lakins will have to stay healthy and limit the walks that have troubled him at times, but he’s got the potential to be a legit middle reliever or even an opener if he tightens some things up. And with two minor league options remaining, the Cubs don’t need to push him to figure everything out right away.