Chicago Cubs: Brandon Kintzler should be given serious look

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JULY 17: Brandon Kintzler
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JULY 17: Brandon Kintzler /

This reliever was an All-Star closer prior to switching leagues and changing roles. Here’s why the Chicago Cubs should take a good look at Brandon Kintzler.

With all the talk about the Chicago Cubs‘ quest for relief pitchers this offseason, there is a particular target that should be given consideration.

Free agent Brandon Kintzler served two roles in 2017. For the first part of the season, he was an All-Star closer for the Minnesota Twins, before moving on to D.C. in a deadline deal to team up and help solve the Washington Nationals‘ bullpen crisis. For the Nationals, he served his role as a setup man alongside Ryan Madson for Sean Doolittle.

What we know

Kintzler is 33 years old and 2018 marks his ninth big-league campaign. Prior to his time in Minnesota, he served parts of six seasons in the Milwaukee Brewers‘ pen, amassing 181 innings and 3.38 ERA. In 2017, his 2.02 BB/9 ranked 18th among all relievers, and seventh (1.72) over the last two seasons, just behind another potential Cubs’ target, Addison Reed. During the same span, Kintzler’s 0.72 HR/9 ranks among the top 30 relievers for the mark, tied with Andrew Miller.

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As a closer for the Twins between June 2016 through July 2017, he compiled 45 saves in 52 opportunities, and 28 of 32 in 2017.

In the 2017 Division Series for the Nats, he made three appearances against the Cubs, totaling 3 1/3 innings and surrendering two runs and taking the Game 3 loss.

Kintzler’s 4.2 K/9 was third from the bottom among all qualified relievers which might seem like a troubling figure to digest. The Cubs’ lowest among qualified relievers was Mike Montgomery‘s 6.46.

If you need a ground ball

What Kintzler relies on are ground balls to get outs. From 2014-17, Kintzler ranks 19th among groundball percentage (57.8 percent) – which certainly bodes well with a defense of Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Javier Baez backing him up. Of course, don’t overlook former Platinum Glove winner Anthony Rizzo scooping throws and making outstanding plays over at first base.

Kintzler ranked 16th among relievers inducing double plays (nine) and sixth with102 ground ball outs in 2017. In addition, the righty led relievers in O-contact percentage (77.3) and contact percentage (87.5). In terms of generating low doses of hard contact, Kintzler ranked 25th, and just above Kenley Jansen (25.7 percent).

Potentially seeking?

MLB Trade Rumors predicts Kintzler to be in the two-year, $14 million range. They also project potential Cubs targets Brandon Morrow and the aforementioned Reed to get $24 and $36 million, respectively. Kintzler recently talked about the interest he’s received from clubs.

The Colorado Rockies and St. Louis Cardinals are at least two teams that have expressed interest. Furthermore, the Cubs have another opening in the bullpen as they opted not to tender a contract to Hector Rondon.

As much as we’ve heard with Morrow, he also comes with a well-documented injury history, which is always a pertinent aspect to consider. Another nice option Kintzler brings is his value in terms of closing or setting up. Recently, I posed the hypothetical question of who could step in as emergency closer?

Kintzler obviously has the experience in both areas. Though I’d figure him as a middle-relief option for the Cubs first with his penchant for situational weak-contact outs, he would bring the added insurance and ability of closing as needed. It all just hinges on the rest of the bullpen makeover.