A little under two months ago, the Chicago Cubs made their biggest and best offseason addition in the form of 33-year-old closer Jose Veras.
While it might be frustrating that Veras is widely considered to have been the best player the Cubs have added so far instead of the big names like Jimenez or Garza, he certainly should not be brushed aside.
It will be comforting for Cubs’ fans to have a reliable closer at the back of the pen rather than the gamble in Kevin Gregg last year. Although Gregg was lights-out early in the season, he faded down the stretch for Chicago.
In 2013, between the Houston Astros and Detroit Tigers, Veras posted a very respectable 3.02 ERA with an 8.6 K/9 rate, 3.2 BB/9, and about a 42.5 ground ball percentage.
The Cubs got him on a very affordable one-year deal for just $4 million. Another large factor in the contract was the club option for 2015. But we`ll get more into that later.
Chicago has made fairly significant improvements in the bullpen thus far, adding solid lefty Wesley Wright, who will in turn help take a lot of load off of fellow lefty James Russell this year. Having Veras in the ninth inning will also give Pedro Strop another half-to-full season to polish his stuff and command without having to step into the closer’s role right away for the Cubs.
Now onto that “R-word” stuff. Once the signing was announced Cubs fans were collectively pleased with the signing of a reliable, proven closer. However, as it has been with the Cubs since 2010, the “rebuild” word always comes into mind. This one-year deal for a 33-year-old closer is an obvious sign-and-flip contract for the rebuilding Cubs, which could actually provide some value come July.
Many teams would likely be interested in Veras if he shows up and does what he`s always done, and that option for 2015 increases his trade value substantially. It reminds me of the front office signing of Paul Maholm, which was also a one-year deal with an option. That option increased the Cubs’ return a great deal. Instead of trading for a one- year “rental”, the Braves were able to hold control over the southpaw for an additional season. Without the option year on Maholm’s deal, it is highly unlikely the Cubs could have gotten Arodys Vizcaino and Jaye Chapman in that trade. Not a chance. So, looking ahead to the upcoming season the hypothetical teams pursuing Veras near the midseason mark will have that opportunity to trigger that option and have him for an additional year, on top of the remainder of 2014.
Veras was a terrific signing by Theo & Company, adding a proven closer to shut down games early in the year for Chicago. Who knows, maybe the much-improved bullpen adds seven wins to the team`s first half total and puts them on pace for 85 wins (As John Arguello wrote about at Cubs Den). Without Carlos Marmol and Shawn Camp blowing games in 2014 and a revamped bullpen led by Veras and James Russell, maybe the Cubs can make a move in the standings. If that doesn’t happen by midseason, well, it’s simple really. Veras is as good as gone by August, Cubs fans.