Chicago Cubs were right to go with Brandon Morrow over Wade Davis

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 27: Brandon Morrow
CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 27: Brandon Morrow /

At the midway point of the season, the Chicago Cubs’ decision to let Wade Davis walk in favor of Brandon Morrow has paid off in every sense.

After a stellar 2017 season, many fans wanted to see the Chicago Cubs lock up closer Wade Davis. Davis wasn’t interested in signing another one-year contract so the Cubs looked to free agency for his replacement.

In December, Theo Epstein got his guy. They inked hard-throwing right-hander Brandon Morrow to a two-year, $21 million deal. At the time, the club wasn’t ready to commit to Morrow as their closer, but as free agency progressed, it became evident Morrow was the best option for the ninth inning.

Morrow has been a stable force in the bullpen throughout the season. He has converted on 19 of his 20 save opportunities and sports a dominant 1.40 ERA. He ranks sixth in the National League in saves, although his ERA is lower than any of the five relievers ahead of him. His efforts could earn him a trip to Washington D.C for the All-Star Game.

High-risk, high-reward

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Upon signing with the Cubs, Morrow was already 33 years old and had never been a closer in his career.  He had shown closer-type stuff working primarily as an eighth inning guy for the Dodgers last season.

Some questioned whether it made sense to put a 10-year veteran into a new role in which hadn’t occupied yet, but Morrow has proven to be up to the challenge.

Postseason pedigree

A large deciding factor in the team putting trust in Morrow was likely his performance in last year’s playoffs. Overall, Morrow had a 3.95 ERA in his 13 2/3 innings of postseason work. While the ERA doesn’t stand out, Morrow proved to be the top workhorse in a Dodgers bullpen that was stacked with talented arms.

Morrow became just the second pitcher ever to appear in all seven games of the World Series. Overall, he appeared in 14 of the Dodgers’ 15 postseason games. He’s shown that he is kind of guy who wants the ball in big games.

For a team like the Cubs who aspire to be playing games in October for the foreseeable future, Morrow’s mentality will prove to be valuable down the stretch.

Comparing Morrow and Davis

After the Cubs didn’t meet Davis’s monetary demands, the Rockies were waiting with an open wallet.

He signed a hefty three-year, $52 million dollar deal with a vesting option that could take the total value up to $66 million if he finishes 30 or more games in the 2020 season. It was the largest relief pitcher contract ever.

This season, Davis has been solid, but not great. He leads the league in saves but has seen his ERA spike above 4.00. He has allowed a total of 16 earned runs, which is already more than all of last season.

While it’s not uncommon for pitchers to have a higher earned run average in Coors field, his 3.79 road ERA is still much higher than his 2.30 ERA with the Cubs last season.

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All in all, I think the Cubs got the best bargain in the offseason and can still be comfortable handing the ball to one of the game’s elite closers. They made the right call letting Davis walk out the door, regardless of what he contributed in 2017.