Chicago Cubs: Who Will Be Closing Games in 2018?
The 2017 MLB season did not go quite as planned for the Chicago Cubs. After winning their first World Series in over 100 years in 2016, they entered last season as the favorites to do it again. The Cubs got off to a bit of a slow start. Resulting in the Milwaukee Brewers holding the NL Central lead for a bit. Nevertheless, the Cubs would still win the division by six games with a 92-70 record.
Entering the postseason as the three seed, the Cubs took down the Washington Nationals in five games during the NLDS. But that is where the good news would end. The NLCS would be short-lived, with the Cubbies falling to the Los Angeles Dodgers in five.
Their lack of returning to the World Series cannot be blamed on their closer from a year ago. Wade Davis, in his only season in Wrigley, saved 32 games in 33 attempts. He also pitched to a 2.30 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and struck out 79 batters. All over the course of 58 and two-thirds innings.
After being acquired via trade last offseason from the Chicago Cubs, Davis provided the team with exactly what they were looking for following the departure of Aroldis Chapman: a reliable closer. The problem now is, the team is in the same boat as a season ago. Davis, along with fellow relievers Brian Duensing, Hector Rondon and Koji Uehara are all on the free agent market this Winter.
So this begs the question, who will be closing games for the Chicago Cubs?
The obvious answer would be the Cubs re-sign Davis. Entering his age 32 season, Davis is likely to have a few more closer-worthy seasons. But given he is likely to be a fairly hot commodity, the team will certainly face some competition to keep his services. As a result, his price tag will certainly rise.
The other big name reliever on the market is Greg Holland, who is coming off a comeback season with the Colorado Rockies. If the Cubs aren’t willing to pay the price tag for Davis, it seems highly unlikely they will spring for Holland.
One name they were reportedly showing high interest in was Mike Minor. The soon to be 30-year-old is coming off a season with a 2.55 ERA and 1.02 WHIP with the Kansas City Royals. But unfortunately for Chicago, Minor just inked a deal with the Texas Rangers.
That leaves two free agents that the team seems primed to target. First, we have Brandon Morrow, coming off a resurgent season in Los Angeles. The 33-year-old was a workhorse in the pen for the Dodgers in the postseason, following a strong regular season. In 45 games, Morrow pitched to a 2.06 ERA and 0.92 WHIP during the regular season.
Morrow has a very lengthy injury history, which is likely to bring down his price a bit. When he is healthy, he is a very solid all-around pitcher. But given how unreliable he is in terms of staying on the field, the Cubs may wish to look for a different option.
That brings us to Brandon Kintzler, who some link to the Cubs, as you can see from the below tweet from Jon Morosi.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 6, 2017
Kintzler’s numbers may not be quite as flashy as the names mentioned above, but nonetheless, they are still strong. Between the Minnesota Twins and Washington Nationals a season ago, Kintzler saved 29 of 35 games. He pitched to a 3.03 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. One big downfall, however, is he is not a strikeout pitcher, fanning just 39 despite pitching just over 71 innings.
Their current bullpen features names such as Carl Edwards Jr., Justin Wilson, Mike Montgomery and Pedro Strop. In other words, they have some quality arms already. But given they have been linked to several relievers, we know they are looking for at least one more man to add to the mix.
As a result, the general feel this writer gets is they lose out on Davis. This will result in them likely landing Morrow, who they will then place in the closer’s role to open the season. Given his track record of getting injured, the team would then likely result in a closer-by-committee with Edwards, Wilson, and Strop all in the mix if Morrow went down.
While my gut tells me this is how things will play out, let’s throw out one more idea that the Cubs should highly consider.
The Baltimore Orioles have several players entering their contract years. Two of those players happen to be high-end relief pitchers by the names Brad Brach and Zach Britton. Both have a track record of closing games, and both men would fit nicely into the Cubs pen.
Given the Chicago Cubs certainly have plenty of young players that would be of interest to the O’s, who are going to need to reload in the next few seasons, there is certainly potential for a pairing here. The only issue would be both men being in their last season under contract. Meaning the Cubs can put themselves in the same boat once again next winter if they went this route.
What do you think Cub fans? Will the team make every effort to bring back Wade Davis? Will they end up with someone like Brandon Morrow? Could they swing a deal for Brad Brach or Zach Britton? Only time will tell who is pitching the ninth for the Chicago Cubs in 2018. Tell us what you think!