Chicago Cubs: Offseason moves improve already strong pen


In several offseason moves, the Chicago Cubs have solidified an already-strong relief corps heading into the 2016 campaign as they eye a World Series title.

During Chicago’s push to the NLCS last season, a bullpen featuring the likes of Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop and Jason Motte, among others, brought stability to an aspect of the club that has been shaky during the half-decade rebuilding effort.

That group pitched to the fourth-best bullpen earned run average (3.38) and saves (48) – and narrowly missed leading the league in opponent’s batting average (.234) – which trailed only the New York Mets’ .233.

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Looking at the Chicago Cubs’ band of misfits, you likely wouldn’t have guessed that the club ranked near the top of the relief leaderboards. However, as the roster stands currently, several major pieces are missing, including veteran Fernando Rodney and the aforementioned Motte, who signed with the Colorado Rockies earlier this winter.

In lieu of these two experienced, albeit aging, arms, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer went for youth and versatility, something they’ve spent the last few years doing with the position player group this organization enjoys.

While trading Starlin Castro to the New York Yankees, which allowed for greater financial flexibility in the weeks that followed, the Cubs brought in swingman Adam Warren, who could serve in a variety of roles for Joe Maddon in 2016 – from setup man to spot-starter.

Former Colorado southpaw Rex Brothers and Orioles’ minor leaguer Edgar Olmos have also been added to the fold by the Chicago brain trust, along with a few other less eye-popping names such as Stephen Fife, Scott Barnes and Luis Cruz.

To me personally, Warren and Brothers are by-far the most appealing additions from that group. The former has pitched to a 3.23 ERA over the last three seasons, although his FIP clocks in closer to the mid-3.00 mark.

The right-hander has never been much for strikeouts; he’s never breached the strikeout-per-inning mark during his time in the big leagues and he’s posted a meager 2.62 strikeout-to-walk ratio, as well.

He’s spent time as a long-man, a starter and a back-end reliever, so his exact role with the Cubs remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, though – he’s a valuable piece to add to the mix; and one that comes at a controllable cost for several years to come.

Brothers, on the other hand, is viewed as more of a reclamation project after struggling badly in his last full season in the bigs, 2014, during which he posted a 5.59 ERA, 4.98 FIP and 10.4 H/9 across 74 appearances.

That season not withstanding, the southpaw has been one of the better arms in baseball, despite pitching at the hitter-friendly haven of Coors Field for half of his appearances. Away from Denver, Brothers has a career 2.33 earned run average in 139 games – a promising sign for Maddon and pitching coach Chris Bosio.

He’ll likely see time as a seventh or eighth-inning man for the Chicago Cubs in a role similar to the one held by James Russell in recent years – a left-hander who can get outs in tight situations. An impact southpaw is something that this team badly lacked last year, so Brothers may very well prove to be one of the most undervalued pick-ups of the offseason.

Add the collection of unknown arms to these two proven options and an area that was already a strength for Chicago after a 97-win campaign looks even brighter moving toward spring training in Arizona.