Following the departure of two-time Chicago Cubs closer Kevin Gregg, the Cubs are left with some questions as to who will get the ball in the ninth inning come April.
The 2013 Winter Meetings have been rather quiet thus far for the Chicago Cubs as they have made one signing to date, that being left-handed reliever Wesley Wright who signed a 1-year, $1.4 million dollar deal on December 4th to help bolster the left side of the Chicago bullpen.
Wright’s addition alone is not going to improve a bullpen that finished 25th in ERA last season(4.04) and 8th in earned runs allowed with 213. Along with the performance woes of the bullpen, the lack of consistent roles has the organization looking within itself to find players who possess the ability to take over the game come the later innings.
As of now the Chicago Cubs have a few candidates that manager Rick Renteria is considering come the spring, including two of the Cubs more consistent arms, Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop. Rondon and Strop both finished off the season in the Cubs bullpen with Rondon appearing in forty-five games and Strop pitching in thirty-seven for the Cubs in 2013.
Both Strop and Rondon have above average fastballs that have the ability to finish off most major league hitters, but the development of a dominant second pitch will be what separates them from the average reliever.
Strop posted a 10.8 strikeout per nine inning during his time in Chicago racking up forty-two strikeouts and allowing eleven runs in his thirty-five innings of work. Strop was acquired from Baltimore in 2013 in the deal sending starting pitcher Scott Feldman and catcher Steve Clevenger to the Orioles.
Hector Rondon spent his entire rookie year in the Chicago bullpen working many sixth, seventh and eighth innings. Rondon pitched 54.2 innings in total, allowing twenty-nine earned runs, twenty-five walks and forty-four strikeouts.
Although the Chicago Cubs have a few options within their own organization the winter meetings still hold deals in the making that could bring the future closer of the Chicago Cubs to the windy city.
Names such as John Axford, Tyler Clippard, and Drew Storen have been linked to the Chicago Cubs this offseason, but so far they have been nothing more than rumored. If the Cubs do happen to sign more helping hands for the bullpen they certainly will be given the opportunity to prove themselves in the closing role.
So whether it be an acquired piece or a player already settled within the Chicago Cubs organization manager Rick Renteria will have the difficult job of finding himself the man who can improve upon Chicago’s 27th worst save percentage in the league (60%).