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Chicago Cubs: Carl Edwards is the Cubs future closer

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Apr 2, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Carl Edwards (6) celebrates after getting a inning ending double play to end the sixth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals during opening night at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 2, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Carl Edwards (6) celebrates after getting a inning ending double play to end the sixth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals during opening night at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /
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 The Chicago Cubs went from Aroldis Chapman to Wade Davis as their closer. Not a bad transition. Could Carl Edwards be next in line?

Last season, Hector Rondon and Aroldis Chapman held the role of closer for the Chicago Cubs. Rondon, of course, held the position pre-trade deadline. Rondon performed very well as he recorded 18 saves out of 20 opportunities prior to the Cubs acquiring Chapman.

Chapman’s turn

Chapman picked up right where Rondon left off. In 28 appearances, Chapman had a 1.01 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 26.2 innings pitched. The fire-balling lefty also converted 16 out of 18 save opportunities while with the Cubs.

With Chapman once again a member of the New York Yankees, the Cubs were forced to find a replacement at closer. Yes, the Cubs could have stuck with Rondon, but they decided to trade for Davis.

Davis gets a shot

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From 2014 to 2016, Davis proved to be one of the best relief pitchers in baseball. In those three seasons, Davis appeared in 185 games and recorded a 1.18 ERA in 182.2 innings pitched. In that same time frame, Davis notched 47 saves while striking out 234 batters and walking just 59.

The Cubs got Davis pretty cheap from the Kansas City Royals, as they sent Jorge Soler to Kansas City before the start of the 2017 season. Perhaps one of the reasons for Davis being so cheap is the fact that he is in the last year of this contract.

Davis will make $10 million this seaso and may be hard to re-sign if he remains healthy. He has proven that he can post All-Star caliber numbers year in and year out, and may command big money this off-season.

For that reason, the Cubs are likely to let Davis walk at the end of the year. That would once again leave a void for the Cubs. This time, they may have an in-house option to fill the role of closer.

Is it Edwards’ turn now?

The man for the job would be 25-year-old Carl Edwards. The 6-foot-3-inch right-hander has been in the Cubs system since 2013 and made his major league debut on September 7, 2015. Edwards was up for a cup of coffee in 2015 but would see an expanded role the following year.

In 2016, Edwards appeared in 36 games for the Cubs and recorded a 3.75 ERA with 52 strikeouts and 14 walks in 36 innings pitched. Even though Edwards worked mostly in the sixth and seventh innings, he did record two saves in 2016.

Edwards has jumped out to a fast start thus far in 2017. He has appeared in 13 games and has given up just one earned run and four hits. He has also struck out 16 batters and walked four in 13 innings pitched.

The young right-hander’s electric fastball and curveball have vaulted him into an even bigger role moving forward. That bigger role may very well be the role of closer.

Edwards does have some experience closing, as he notched six saves between Double-A and Triple-A in 2015. He recorded two more at the major league level in 2016, and one in Triple-A.

For the first few years of his professional career, Edwards was a starting pitcher. This, of course, did not allow him to get an opportunity to save games. Now that he has made the transition to the bullpen, the probability of him ending up a closer is at an all-time high.

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With Wade Davis set to become a free agent at the end of the year, and Edwards’ success thus far, he looks to be next in line for the spot. Fans have already seen that Joe Maddon trusts the youngster. In Game 7 of the World  Series, Maddon turned to Edwards to close out the game. Edwards was unable to record three outs, but the fact that Maddon was willing to put Edwards in that situation speaks volumes.

Edwards is under team control until 2023 and should give the Cubs a cheap and effective option at closer starting in 2018.

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