Chicago Cubs: Steve Cishek can fulfill wealth of roles

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Steve Cishek came over to the Chicago Cubs in December, a part of the bullpen makeover, and point of offseason emphasis, for Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.

Steve Cishek might not be a name most Chicago Cubs fans are familiar with. But he is familiar with another key Cubs addition, that of new pitching coach, Jim Hickey.

Cishek only spent the last few months of 2017 in Tampa Bay following a trade from the Mariners where he also spent the 2016 season. No matter where he has pitched — also Cardinals and Marlins — Cishek has maintained a level of consistency over his career.

Consistency is his middle name

Since his career began in 2010, Cishek’s 2.98 FIP ranks tied for 35th among all qualified relievers, 2.73 ERA comes in tied for 37th, fWAR of 6.7 ranks 22nd, and 121 career saves ranks tied for 22nd. That’s all of baseball in that span. And he has made a career of inducing weak contact (22.4 percent soft contact rate in 2017), something you know the Cubs defense is ready for.

Chicago Cubs
Chicago Cubs /

Chicago Cubs

In 26 appearances for the Rays last season, he pitched to a 1.09 ERA and nine holds in 24 2/3 innings. For both Tampa and Seattle in 2017, Cishek struck out 41 batters against just 14 walks.

Cishek’s lefty/righty splits are also what you like to see.

In 2017, he held right-handers to a slash of .148/.218/.194 over 108 at-bats, and lefties, .208/.309/.354 in 48 instances. We went more into depth about Cishek at the time of the signing.

As the Cubs look to Hickey to help further the growth of Cubs’ pitchers and fix control issues, and additions like Cishek — two-year, $13 million contract in December — for added relief value and October insurance, Cishek brings value in more ways than one.

Assorted box of chocolates

You think of the versatility a player like Ben Zobrist or Javier Baez provides, covering a myriad of roles on defense. You can apply that idea to Cishek, anywhere from middle relief to closing games.

With manager Joe Maddon pushing the buttons, you know Cishek will get his dose of multiple, and situational, opportunities throughout the next two seasons. For the Cubs, it is nice to have another pitcher with experience and success closing out ballgames. In the case of rest or injury.

I covered the addition of Brandon Morrow earlier in the offseason. Essentially granted the duties to close games for Chicago, with Wade Davis leaving for the Mile High City to assume the closing duties for the Rockies, some fans may wonder about the Cubs back-end of the bullpen have.

Even with Morrow as Davis’ likely successor, it’s Cishek that actually has the most career saves out of the Cubs bullpen — the aforementioned 121 SV across 146 opp. in parts of eight big league seasons — including 34 for the 2013 Marlins, and 39 the following season. He saved 25 for the 2016 Mariners.

Whatever it takes

In January, Cishek joined 670 The Score and the Spiegel & Parkins show. Among the things Cishek spoke about was doing whatever the job warrants. Literally. He even said — tongue and cheek, (I’m pretty sure) — “If they want me to start, I don’t care. I’ll do whatever it takes.”

Said Cishek on his potential role usage with the Cubs:

“Hickey saw me pitch out of the role last year where he put me in jam situations or sixth, seventh innings. I really enjoyed it, going into a situation where you never know if you’re going in or not.”

We encourage you to listen to the rest of the interview in its entirety.

Over his career, Cishek, a submarine thrower, and primarily a groundball pitcher, also strikes out batters. To the tune of 9.58 strikeouts per nine over his career. His repertoire consists primarily of a sinker, slider, four-seam fastball mix. During the interview, Cishek also talked about adjusting his approach and mechanics in recent years to meet the everchanging approach by hitters who are looking to drive the ball.

The repertoire, mechanics, and versatility are all reasons for Cubs fans to be excited with the addition of Cishek. And the array of options it affords Maddon.

Next: Chicago Cubs have only minor moves left to complete offseason

The Cubs will lean on his consistency, while fans stay in-tune with his eventual dance moves. The latter, which Cishek looks forward to breaking out.