Chicago Cubs taking the blame for Justin Wilson’s 2017 struggles

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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The Chicago Cubs thought they were getting a shutdown reliever in Justin Wilson. Instead, they got a lefty who failed to execute down the stretch.

Since winning the World Series, Chicago Cubs fans have grown increasingly hostile to struggling players. Last season was no exception. And there was no one more heavily criticized than midseason acquisition Justin Wilson.

Wilson, 30, came over from Detroit in the deal that also landed catcher Alex Avila. In exchange, the Cubs sent one of their last top prospects, Jeimer Candelario, to the Tigers. In short, Wilson was supposed to be the missing piece to the puzzle. Instead, Avila became the more valuable of the two pieces – at least in the short-term.

After joining the Cubs, he posted a 5.09 earned run average. By contrast, Wilson put up a 2.68 ERA with the Tigers to go along with a 10.2 walk percentage, 0.940 WHIP and 35 percent strikeout rate. Across-the-board, his numbers spiked (and not in a good way) after the trade. After Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer acquired him to be their postseason weapon, he made just one appearance – and didn’t even make Chicago’s NLCS roster.

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How did this happen? The Cubs have quickly become known for the skill and tact with which the front office operates. So, suffice to say, the handling of the Wilson arrival isn’t sitting well with Hoyer.

"“That’s something we talk about a lot,” Hoyer told The Athletic. “We’ve obviously had guys who come in and had a lot of success right away. But we’ve had a number of guys who have come in and struggled beyond what they’ve done in the past. That’s something we have looked at and will continue to look at and talk about how we ‘onboard’ guys, so to speak.”"

As Sahadev Sharma points out, this isn’t the first time the Cubs battling such a rocky transition. Right-hander Adam Warren struggled badly, pitching to a 5.91 ERA with Chicago after a midseason trade. However, he got right back to business, with a. 3.02 FIP and 8.5 strikeouts per nine with the Yankees last season.

Where does the blame lie?

Could this be part of the reason former pitching coach Chris Bosio is no longer on the North Side? Perhaps. But, all told, you have to think he brought more success stories than failures to Cubs hurlers.

First-year pitching coach Jim Hickey will no-doubt be a big part of making sure incoming pitchers are acclimated and ready to go moving forward. As will Theo and Jed. But there’s a bigger story here – at least in my opinion.

How many general managers are going to take that heat so openly? It shows the class we’ve come to expect from this organization in recent years – and their unrivaled sense of purpose. It also shows that the Cubs believe they have a true asset on their hands.

Next: Cubs have plenty of options outside of Harper, Machado

Some teams would have written off Wilson. But Hoyer’s comments make one thing abundantly clear. Justin Wilson will undoubtedly be a critical piece in Joe Maddon‘s bullpen in 2018. If they can get him back on-form, adding him to the likes of Steve Cishek, Brandon Morrow, Carl Edwards, and Pedro Strop could put this relief corps over the top.

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