Relying on youth and inexperience has worked fairly well to this point for the Chicago Cubs. But adding a shutdown arm could give the team a boost.
As we talked about over the weekend, the Chicago Cubs received very strong contributions from their young arms this year. It’s been a near constant stream of guys shuffling back and forth between Iowa and Chicago – and, for the most part, it’s gone pretty well.
Guys like Randy Rosario have really come into their own so far this year. But come crunch time, I’m not sure I want to hand the ball to guys with less than a year of big league experience. And with pretty much everyone in the world illogically soured on Justin Wilson, another shutdown left-hander could make a lot of sense.
When I think about big-name lefty relievers, one names comes to mind: Zach Britton of the Baltimore Orioles.
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He has pitched just two times this year for Baltimore after missing significant time last year due to injury. But the upside seems to outweigh the risk for pretty much every contender around the league.
One of the game’s best
From 2014 to 2017, the O’s southpaw made 242 appearances, finishing 200 contests. Over that span, he pitched to a 1.61 earned run average with a 1.003 WHIP and 0.3 HR/9. In short, he’s been one of the best relievers in the game.
Multiple teams, including the Red Sox, Astros and Astros expressed interest in the lefty already this year. Reportedly, all of those teams wanted to add him last year, as well. But, as we all know, Baltimore has a proclivity for bungling trades and signings.
Back to the Cubs, though.
Having two weapons in the pen from the left side would bode well for Joe Maddon and his team. Wilson, despite what many think, has pitched well this year. He’s striking out 12.3 men per nine with a 2.93 ERA on the year. Walks continue to be an issue, but not to the same extent as last year.
What should teams expect from him?
Right now, it’s hard to determine what you’re going to get. Is it the guy who finished fourth in American League Cy Young voting just two years ago? The guy who turned in a 0.54 ERA across 63 appearances? (Hint: If you wanted to get max value on this guy, this is when you should have dealt him, Baltimore).
Or is he now a guy who battled injuries last year and has seen his walk numbers rise? If that would prove to be the case, the Cubs might be in a very familiar situation even if they added Britton. Last year, they expected Wilson to be their shutdown guy in the pen. Instead, they got a crap shoot where any given day could head south in a hurry.
Really, it all comes down to price. And, if we’re being honest, I’d expect a team like the Red Sox to pony up more than the Cubs will – especially for a rental. For Chicago, the move represents a high-risk, high-upside trade.
It could work out well. Or it could go down as a ‘miss’ for Theo and the front office.