Did Chicago Cubs make mistake in non-tendering Rondon?
By Tim Stebbins
Héctor Rondon has been more than reliable for the Chicago Cubs. Come 2018, they could miss his presence in their bullpen.
Friday night, several reports announced that the Chicago Cubs would not tender Héctor Rondon a contract for the 2018 season. Rondon, 29, will become a free agent.
The Cubs attempted to trade Rondon before Friday’s deadline to tender him a contract. Realistically, there are a few reasons why the team found no suitors and why they did not re-sign Rondon themselves.
All-around struggles in 2017
First and foremost, Rondon had an up-and-down 2017 season; in 61 games (57 1/3 innings), he had a 4.24 ERA. He also suffered career highs in runs (30) and home runs (10) allowed.
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Outside of his numbers, Rondon dealt with injuries in August and September that sidelined him for several weeks on each occasion. Rondon also strained his right tricep in August 2016, landing on the disabled list as a result.
After returning that September, Rondon posted a woeful 8.53 ERA in eight outings. Before the injury, he posted a 2.47 ERA for the season. One has to wonder if his decline in performance between seasons and the injury are correlated.
In addition to his numbers and injuries, Rondon made $5.8 million in 2017, and his salary was expected to rise to $6.2 million in 2018. Ultimately, all of these factors could have influenced the Cubs’ decision not to bring Rondon back for next season.
Rondon dominant during career
Despite all of this, the Cubs could regret letting Rondon go come next season. Although he did struggle at times in 2017, he has done more good than bad in his time with the Cubs.
From 2014-2016, Rondon posted ERAs of 2.42, 1.67 and 3.53, respectively. Of course, Rondon’s 2016 ERA is skewed, as it rose by more than a run in September alone.
Furthermore, opponents hit just .218, .212, .225 and .233 off Rondon from 2014-2017, respectively. Realistically, he struggled in 2017 due to allowing the most walks and hits per nine innings since his rookie year.
In 2015 and 2016, Rondon walked 1.93 and 1.41 batters per nine innings and surrendered 7.07 and 7.41 hits innings per nine innings. In 2017, walked 3.14 batters per nine innings and surrendered 7.85 hits per nine innings.
Essentially, Rondon’s numbers increased across the board between the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Although 2017 was not his best campaign, it could simply be a blip on the radar in Rondon’s career.
Reliable late-game reliever
The Cubs have mostly used Rondon in late-game, high-leverage situations. He saved 29 games in 2014, 33 games in 2015 and 18 games in 2016 (before the Cubs acquired Aroldis Chapman). He has enjoyed tremendous success and has been a reliable arm during his tenure with the Cubs.
Rondon also presents the skill of merely being able to throw hard. His average four-seam fastball velocity in 2017 was 96.37 MPH. For the sake of comparison, the average MLB four-seam fastball velocity in 2017 was just 93.19 MPH.
Of course, there is much more to pitching than just throwing hard, and throwing hard does not necessarily make one a good pitcher. However, Rondon has the ability to throw hard and has enjoyed success with the Cubs.
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Rondon did not perform as well in 2017 as he did in the past and his salary raise might have been too steep for the Cubs’ liking. Only time will tell if the Cubs made the right choice in not bringing Rondon back for 2018 and beyond.