Chicago Cubs: In quiet market, is Brian Duensing reunion in the works?
By Jake Misener
The Chicago Cubs continue to focus exclusively on pitching this offseason. In a lot of ways, a reunion with left-hander Brian Duensing makes a lot of sense.
After the bullpen’s meltdown in October, it hardly came as a surprise when the Chicago Cubs immediately added pitching this offseason. So far, we’re at two starters and four relievers – and we are yet to hit the New Year.
But make no mistake. Theo Epstein and the Cubs front office are far from done. The club needs either another proven rotation arm or one more bullpen piece, depending on what role Mike Montgomery plays heading into 2018. Even with Montgomery in a swingman role, another reliable lefty would make things a lot smoother next year.
And, after a breakout 2017 campaign on the North Side, Brian Duensing may be that guy.
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Entering last year, his first with Chicago, Duensing carried a 4.13 ERA, 4.08 FIP and 100 ERA+ across 662 2/3 innings in the American League. But in his first taste of National League action, the former third-round pick took things to a new level.
Thanks to an improved strikeout-to-walk ratio, Duensing saw his earned run average plummet to 2.74. He appeared in 68 games for the Cubs – third-highest total on the team, trailing only Carl Edwards and Pedro Strop.
Lights-out all season long
After a rocky start to the season (8.10 ERA/1.500 WHIP) in March and April, something clicked and it was off to the races. In May, the 34-year-old lefty allowed just two earned runs in 17 innings. In July, he turned in 9 2/3 scoreless frames. Down the stretch in August, opponents tallied just a pair of runs in just under 10 innings from Duensing.
This guy was the epitome of consistency for Joe Maddon.
A former starter, Duensing may be exactly what this roster needs. Another Montgomery-type arm capable of eating innings. A signing insures against injury to a starter or a reliever, as both men can handle either role.
At this point in his career, this may be one of his last chances to land a big deal. But, on the other hand, Father Time can’t be cheated and Duensing no-doubt wants to win. Epstein will give him a fair deal – one that also gives him a prolonged window to chase that ring.
Other lefties on the market
Of course, Duensing represents one of the top remaining lefties on the market. He joins former Pirates and Dodgers southpaw Tony Watson, as well as Francisco Liriano as lefties still looking for a home.
I’d imagine Watson is going to fetch a higher value deal than Duensing. Given his long track record as an elite reliever (especially during his time in Pittsburgh), he’s more than earned that. Duensing, meanwhile, is coming off his first year of a sub-3.00 ERA. By most indications, he found something in Chicago he hadn’t discovered in the past.
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Bringing him back makes too much sense for this not to happen. Of course, baseball is near-impossible to predict and someone could always step in and lure him away. But for Duensing and the Chicago Cubs, a reunion could be a perfect fit in 2018 and beyond.