After multiple additions to an already effective bullpen, the Chicago Cubs will likely have an abundance of relief options to work with. Both new and old, the arms in the pen should be a strongpoint for the team next season.
Provided that they stick around, guys like Edwin Jackson and Travis Wood can make a seamless transition into a long relief role, and Justin Grimm looks like a viable option as a setup man because of the electric stuff that he brings to the table. With that said, one question still looms large. Who will be the closer for the Cubs in 2015?
After former Cub Jose Veras failed to get the job done, Hector Rondon took over closing duties for much of the season last year and performed admirably. The 26-year-old right-hander notched 29 saves in only 33 opportunities and posted a 2.42 ERA. He also averaged a strikeout per inning with 63 strikeouts in 63.1 innings of work. His 1.06 whip was also a pleasant surprise and pretty much sums up the success Rondon was able to achieve.
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Another pitcher who the Cubs may look at in the spring is right-hander Pedro Strop. Strop, 29, didn’t have many save opportunities last season, and didn’t exactly take step up when he did. He blew four saves in six tries, and was ultimately used as more of a setup man, where he excelled, earning 21 holds. Although he struggled in a closing role, he did have a solid season overall. In 61 innings he managed a 2.21 ERA to go along with a 1.07 whip. So when it comes to deciding on whom to hand the ball to in the ninth, don’t count out Strop just yet.
Looking at the bigger picture, the race for this position will likely come down to two men; Rondon, and recent acquisition Jason Motte. The 32-year-old veteran righty saved 42 games for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2012, but he missed all of 2013 because of Tommy John surgery and pitched in just 29 games last season, posting a 4.68 ERA in 25 innings with St. Louis. If he can return to his old form however, this may be tough decision for Cubs manager Joe Maddon to make come late March. All things considered, I think it’s safe to say that, barring any injuries, the job will be Rondon’s to lose.