Chicago Cubs should check in on a division-rival to address the ninth
By Jake Misener
The Chicago Cubs could make a highly unlikely deal to address the closer role; but it would require the consent of a heated division rival.
It’s no secret the Chicago Cubs have work to do regarding the ninth inning. Closer Wade Davis is a free agent and whether or not the team will pony up and bring him back remains to be seen. If they look elsewhere, it’s hard telling who will close the door come Opening Day 2018.
In recent weeks, Mark Melancon became a popular name. Obviously, there are several in-house options as well – including Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards.
But there’s one name we haven’t heard – literally anywhere. Felipe Rivero. The Pittsburgh closer is coming off the best season of his very young career. The left-hander appeared in 73 games for the Pirates, notching 21 saves to go along with a 0.889 WHIP and 2.47 WHIP. Needless to say, he was a bright spot for a club that, overall, struggled all season long.
Buster Olney penned a piece over the weekend talking about the Pirates’ need to unload talent and accept a rebuild. The top names noted by Olney include Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole – but Rivero would fetch a lofty price, to be sure.
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"It would be extremely difficult for the Pirates to part ways with 26-year-old closer Felipe Rivero, who was one of baseball’s best relievers last season, but with the cost of relievers skyrocketing (as Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon can attest), Rivero’s greatest value to Pittsburgh might be as a trade piece."
Closers are at a premium
Closers, as a whole, are incredibly valuable in today’s game. We saw that in the price the Cubs paid for just a half-season of Aroldis Chapman in 2016 (and the ensuing contract he got from the Yankees). Both Chapman and Kenley Jansen received monster deals of-late and Wade Davis seems likely to net a big deal sooner rather than later, as well.
Like I said, Chicago might step up and pay Davis what he’s due. But they may also opt to focus on the rotation and adopt a spread-the-wealth approach to their offseason spending. Rivero could be the most valuable closer on the trade market – and thus, would come at a steep cost.
The southpaw owns a career 2.87 ERA across 200 2/3 big-league innings. He’s also put up a dead-even 10 strikeouts per nine over the last three years. What would make him most attractive to the Cubs, though is his 4.40 strikeout-to-walk ratio from 2017. In a staff that can’t throw strikes consistently, a guy like Rivero has near-limitless value.
What are you willing to give up?
The wrench in all this? Trading pieces within the division is always a tough call. But in a deal such as this, the quality of pieces trading hands makes things even more difficult.
Rivero would fetch a steep haul. Think multiple top-tier players (Ian Happ, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, etc). Because Rivero is that good – and he is under team control through 2022. Despite his obvious talent and the Cubs’ apparent need for impact relievers, it’s hard to fathom this one coming to fruition.
Next: Which Cubs are most likely to be traded this winter?
I love the idea of Felipe Rivero at the back end of the Chicago Cubs bullpen. But, given his inherent value and the fact he plays for a team that hasn’t been too fond of Joe Maddon‘s group since a certain 2015 Wild Card Game, this one is probably best left to my daydreams.