The Chicago Cubs knew they might need their starters to get some extra rest with this long stretch of games prior to the All-Star break, so Adam Warren was sent to Iowa to stretch out to start. That move is going to work wonders for Joe Maddon and the Cubs.
Who reading this article thinks the Chicago Cubs biggest need at the current time is in the bullpen? You can put your hands down. I’ve spent enough time in Cubs groups to know that is EXACTLY what most of you think. I’ll admit, the bullpen is the team’s biggest weakness at times. But I’m also not going to say it will keep them from advancing in October. The balance lies somewhere in between.
When the Cubs sent down Adam Warren to stretch out in order to get a spot start or two before the break, it immediately changed the dynamic of the Cubs bullpen. Warren hadn’t been untouchable (4.56 ERA, 1.403 WHIP), but he’s been effective. The long ball has bit him a bit more than last year as he’s allowed four home runs already in 25 2/3 innings (10 in 131 1/3 last season). About that same time, Clayton Richard headed to the DL (although the struggles were already present) and the middle of the Cubs bullpen was getting a facelift.
Carl Edwards got the call to Chicago, as did Gerardo Concepcion and Spencer Patton. Concepcion’s time was short as he’s been optioned back to Iowa as the Cubs signed Joel Peralta. All the moves seemed to focus on the middle area of the bullpen, an area that Justin Grimm had handled very well until recently.
At the backend of the pen, Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon haven’t been themselves lately, so that has many calling for their heads. Is Rondon a lock down closer? No. Since he took over as the Cubs closer in 2014, he’s saved 72 games while blowing 11. For comparison, the Yankees Aroldis Chapman in that same period has saved 84 but still has blown six. He’s not “lock down” either, and will come at a price. That term really should be reserved for Mariano Rivera and that’s about it.
One thing that these changes have done is forced Joe Maddon to use different relievers in different situations (and occasionally in left field). He still has his favorites in veterans like Travis Wood and Trevor Cahill, but it’s almost assured at some point they are going to struggle as well. So before the Cubs start dealing to get a Chapman or an Andrew Miller this will allow the team to assess what they have in-house.
The Cubs have Joe Nathan on rehab, and the recent addition of Peralta shows the Cubs are willing to keep stabbing at someone till they find a group that works. The Cubs followed a similar path last year, but that was with very little expectation from the fans or the baseball community. Now people are hoping to see them win and a big move isn’t just a possibility–it’s expected.