Former closer Trevor Rosenthal threw in a showcase recently and, if we’ve learned anything about the Chicago Cubs, they low high-risk, high-reward arms.
It’s hard to know exactly what Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have in mind for the Chicago Cubs this winter. But it’s safe to say the roster will likely look quite different next spring than it did at the end of the 2018 season.
One likely area of focus? The bullpen. After Yu Darvish essentially lost the season due to injury and Tyler Chatwood pitched ineffectively, Joe Maddon relied heavily on his group of relievers. While their performance was largely positive, there are several pending free agents in that group and a clear need for a high-end arm.
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Justin Wilson and Jesse Chavez represent the team’s two biggest departures from that group. The former could return if the price is right. And, without Chavez, the Cubs likely wouldn’t have extended their run as far as they did – so his return wouldn’t shock anyone, either.
But with Brandon Morrow coming off another injury-riddled showing, the Cubs could certainly use more back-end depth. Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards will return, but they need some backup. Enter former St. Louis Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal.
The right-hander recently threw at a showcase for big league clubs and, according to Jon Heyman, things went quite well.
"Trevor Rosenthal held a showcase in California in recent days, and he didn’t hold back. In fact, word is that Rosenthal, coming off Tommy John surgery, consistently threw 98, and touched 100 mph in the event that was well attended at UC-Irvine."
A potentially huge addition to the pen
Now, there are no direct links between the Chicago Cubs and Rosenthal. But that’s not to say they won’t at least do their due dilgence on a guy with his potential.
Still just 28 years of age, Rosenthal missed all of 2018 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, But he’s just a few years removed from stellar campaigns in 2014 and 2015, in which he recorded 45 and 48 saves, respectively.
In 2015, he was particularly impressive, posting a 2.10 earned run average across 68 appearances, holding opponents to a .238 average in 68 2/3 innings of work. But he couldn’t sustain that success in 2016, when he scuffled for the Redbirds.
His earned run average skyrocketed to 4.46 – hardly what St. Louis needed or expected from a guy they anticipated would lock down the ninth inning for years to come. He rebounded, to a degree, in 2017, and limited opponents to a .210 average – the best single-season mark in his career.
Why he makes sense for Chicago
Theo Epstein is all about these high-risk, high-reward guys. Signing someone coming off Tommy John presents an inherent set of risks in and of itself. You never know if they’ll be the same guy they were before the procedure or, perhaps more importantly, how long they can sustain their health.
But adding a healthy Rosenthal to the likes of Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards and Brandon Morrow gives Chicago four legitimate arms capable of closing out ballgames. It doesn’t do anything to address the glaring need for an impact left-handed arm, but it’s unlikely Rosenthal fetches much financially, which would allow Epstein to go after a big-time southpaw, as well.
Time will tell where Rosenthal winds up, but don’t be shocked to see reports connecting the Cubs to their biggest rival’s former closer in the weeks and months to come.