Where will Jason Motte fit in the Cubs bullpen?
In 2012, Jason Motte had his breakout season with the St. Louis Cardinals, saving 42 games in 49 opportunities while posting a 2.75 ERA while helping guide them to the NLCS Championship Series. Big things were expected from hi in 2013, but he’d never get the opportunity.
Before the season began, Motte was placed on the disabled list after trying to rehab through a ligament tear. After responding well initially, it became apparent he would need the surgery. After a great 2012 campaign, he would miss the entire season due to the surgery. Upon returning last season, he suffered through several back issues, and never returned to his previous form. In 29 appearances, he allowed seven home runs in 25 innings, after allowing only nine in 2012 in 72 innings. His fastball, which had been clocked around 96 mph, had fallen closer to 93 mph.
So did the Cubs sign a washed up closer with injury issues, or did they get a steal in a player looking to redeem himself?
Chances are the latter is more likely. After rehabbing from Tommy John, Motte never got a chance to be the pitcher he was as he dealt with back issues for much of the season. It was hard to decipher if he had simply “lost it”, or if the back problems were causing the issues. But even upon his return, the Cardinals bullpen had filled in after he was lost, and innings were scarce for him overall.
Joe Maddon likes to be creative with his bullpen, so even though Hector Rondon appeared to have “won” the job last season with a spectacular second half, expect to see Motte get some opportunities as well. With those two, in addition to Neil Ramirez and Pedro Strop, the Cubs appear to have four pitchers capable of taking the ball in the ninth inning. Strop did struggle in his few opportunities, but there’s no question he has closer stuff.
The gamble on Motte could pay big dividends for the Cubs if he’s healthy and can return to anything near his 2012 numbers. Even if Maddon elects to use him in late inning, or possibly set-up, his success as a closer will only help to solidify him in that role. He’s won a World Series with the Cardinals, and had big-game experience to bring to the bullpen. The Cubs have added several new pieces, but where some of them will fit in exactly is yet to be seen, but Motte will be a solid addition no matter where he ends up.