The Chicago Cubs: Should Edwards close in 2018?

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 09: Carl Edwards Jr.
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 09: Carl Edwards Jr. /

The once-promising right-hander has struggled in the second half – should the Chicago Cubs be eyeing a new closer for 2018?

The Chicago Cubs‘ Carl Edwards Jr. is another hidden gem on the roster. He’s a valuable depth piece on Theo Epstein’s expanding list of magical roster moves. “C.J.” is a power arm out of the pen and was touted by many Cubs fan to be their future closer.

The flamethrower boasts a lethal 96 mph fastball and a wipeout curve; he was on the mound in the 10th inning of game 7 of last year’s World Series, so it’s clear he has the confidence and Joe Maddon’s approval to be the Cubs next closer. With Wade Davis acting like 2017’s “bridge six” closer and Edward’s torrid start to the season, the 26-year old seemed poised to be the Cubs lockdown pitcher for years to come.

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Do CJ’s struggles mean the Cubs will look for a 2018 closer?

Baseball is cruel and often unfair. Things have not gone C.J’s way since mid-June. His downfall was highlighted by a dreadful string of games versus the Nationals in August capped by a game-winning grand slam he surrendered to Matt Wieters. The slender right-hander’s struggles this season could mean the Cubs are eyeing a closer this off-season.

Edwards’ sizzling start

C.J. kicked off the 2017 campaign with unreal numbers out of the bullpen. In April and May, the South Carolina native allowed just two earned runs in 20 innings pitched. He yielded just six total hits while striking out 27. He came back down to Earth in June, pitched well in July but fatigue has kicked in, he’s lost his command for the most part; has walked 16 and sports a 0-3 record and a 5.01 ERA since the All-Star break. His 2017 pitching line is as follows: 3-4 with 3.38 ERA 35BB to 84K in 58 2/3 IP.

 What about the Cubs newcomers?

The Cubs landed Alex Avila and Justin Wilson in a deal with the Tigers in July, with Edwards struggling, Wilson (who enjoyed closing with the Tigers) was oft mentioned as a potential closer for 2018 and beyond. He too has struggled to the tune of a 6.39 ERA and 14 walks in 12 and 2/3rds innings.

Who could the Cubs get?

Wade Davis is currently closing Cubs’ games with perfection. He’s a free agent at the end of the year and would ask for a lot of money. His age makes him vulnerable to a long-term contract. With Wilson and Edwards underperforming, who could the Cubs eye this off-season?

The free agent market for upcoming closers is old – former Cub Fernando Rodney is 40, Matt Belisle of the Twins is 37, and the recently released Francisco Rodriguez is 35. The only free agent reliever that would make sense is 28-year old Addison Reed who locked down 19 saves for the Mets before underperforming with the Red Sox.

What’s the final Carl?

There’s no denying that Carl Edwards Jr. has the stuff to be a dominant big league closer. Joe Maddon said it himself on May 1; “He’ll be a closer someday, there’s no doubt.” There’s also no doubt in the fact that Jr. has come a long way. He was drafted in the 48th round in 2011 and often overlooked due to his slim frame.

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Since joining the Cubs, he’s been more productive than not. His strikeout rate has been consistently impressive as has his opposing batting average. At 26-years young, he still has room to grow and not only has a World Series ring but was part of the duo that kept the Indians from coming back in the bottom of the 10th of game 7.

Here’s hoping that CJ can turn 2017 around by performing down the stretch and prove to the Cubs that he deserves to be their future closer.