Chicago Cubs: Brandon Morrow could be best option for closer role

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 31: Brandon Morrow
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 31: Brandon Morrow /

Brandon Morrow could be the Chicago Cubs’ best option for their closer role if they do not re-sign Wade Davis.

Wade Davis‘ return to the Chicago Cubs is unclear at this time. What is clear, though, is that Brandon Morrow is on the roster and is a dominant late-game reliever.

The Cubs reportedly signed Morrow, 33, to a two-year contract, pending a physical. The converted starting pitcher was an absolute force for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2017.

Dominance interrupted by overuse

Morrow appeared in 45 games last season, striking out 50 batters in 43 2/3 innings to go along with a 2.06 ERA. This success carried into the postseason, as Morrow struck out 12 batters in 13 2/3 innings.

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The Cubs hit just .067 against Morrow in the National League Championship Series. He struck out seven batters in 4 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing just one walk and one hit. Overuse is to blame for his struggles in the World Series.

Against the Astros in the World Series, Morrow surrendered five runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings. Opponents hit .333 off Morrow, though he pitched in all seven games. Pitching in seven games in nine days certainly played a role in the sharp decline seen in his numbers.

Davis as good a closer candidate as they come

Davis very well could be on the Cubs’ roster come 2018. Of course, the Cubs have used a different closer in every season since 2015. For this reason, it should not be a surprise if Davis is not brought back for next season.

On the one hand, losing Davis would be devastating for the Cubs, as he was consistent from Opening Day through the postseason. Not only did he blow just one save in the regular season, but he bailed the Cubs out on multiple occasions in the postseason (NLDS Game 5, NLCS Game 4).

Outside of his success, Davis has gone on the disabled list just twice since becoming a full-time reliever in 2014, both occurrences coming in 2016. He is also a year younger than Morrow, who has had numerous injury problems throughout his career.

Future closer ready now?

Losing Morrow to injury in 2018 would hurt the Cubs, especially if he becomes their closer. This is all hypothetical, of course, but the possibility alone is cause for concern. The Cubs do have another option currently on their roster to close games opposed to Morrow.

Like Morrow, Carl Edwards Jr. throws hard and enjoyed a successful 2017 season. While Morrow’s average four-seam fastball (97.96 MPH) is a tad faster than Edwards’ (95.17), both can blow hitters away with velocity.

Edwards appeared in 73 games in 2017, striking out 94 batters in just 66 1/3 innings. While he struggled in the postseason (11.57 ERA in 4 2/3 innings across seven games), control was a huge issue.

Bridge closer the best move

Edwards walked six batters, including Dodgers’ pitcher Yu Darvish on four pitches with the bases loaded. He also walked 38 batters in the regular season, but opponents hit just .134 against him. With better control, Edwards has as good of a case as Morrow to be the Cubs closer.

Be that as it may, the Cubs still might look to Morrow before Edwards to close games next season. While manager Joe Maddon sees Edwards as the future closer, he pointed out how the Cubs must not abuse Edwards as he continues to get bigger and stronger.

Edwards, 26, is arbitration eligible through 2022, so he is under team control for the foreseeable future. By signing Morrow to a two-year contract, the Cubs could continue grooming Edwards to take over the closer’s role while not skipping a beat with Morrow or Davis.

Next: Where will Jake Arrieta land this offseason?

Ultimately, Morrow currently is the Cubs’ best option to close games for 2018. If they manage to re-sign Davis, though, their late-inning bullpen will be lethal come next season.