After the Chicago Cubs declined to pick up Brandon Kintzler‘s $10 million club option for next season, Kintzler unsurprisingly accepted his player option.
When Theo Epstein and the Chicago Cubs brass acquired Brandon Kintzler during last season’s trade deadline, they saw a proven veteran who could pitch in high-leverage situations down the stretch. The team viewed Kintzler as a guy who could help sustain their bullpen’s success, even after losing closer Brandon Morrow to an injury. It didn’t work out that way.
Kintzler struggled mightily in a Cubs uniform and was relegated to a much smaller role than envisioned by the end of the season. In 2019, Kintzler will try to recover from the worst season of his career.
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Prior to last season, Kintzler enjoyed a long career and had proven himself to be a reliable bullpen arm. The right-hander has a career 3.48 ERA over nine seasons. He has also shown flexibility in many different roles ranging from long-relief to being an All-Star closer for the Minnesota Twins in 2017.
Despite not having elite stuff, Kintzler had been one of the top bullpen arms in the game for a long time. He relies on fastball command to go along with a sinker that has allowed him to produce a high ground ball rate throughout his career. For whatever reason, 2018 was different.
Kintzler got off to a slow start for a struggling Washington Nationals team in the first half of the season. His character was also in question when reports came out that he was leaking information to the press about turmoil in the Nationals clubhouse; he has since refuted those claims. Things only got worse for the veteran right-hander after he put on a Cubs uniform.
In 25 appearance with the Cubs, Kintzler posted a dismal 7.00 ERA and allowed three home runs in just 18 innings. By all standards, Kintzler was an absolute disappointment for the Cubs, albeit in a small sample size. Kintzler’s overall ERA in 2018 sat at an unimpressive 4.60.
If the Cubs looked to trade Kintzler during the offseason, they would be left with even more work to fill out an already thin bullpen. With Justin Wilson becoming a free agent, the Cubs are left with Morrow, Steve Cishek, Brian Duensing, Carl Edwards Jr., Pedro Strop (assuming they pick up his team option for 2019), and whoever gets left off the starting rotation between Drew Smyly, Tyler Chatwood and Mike Montgomery.
Even if the Cubs had a lot of depth in their bullpen, the likelihood of finding a team willing to take on Kintzler’s $5 million contract is slim considering how diminished his value is after last season.
The best course of action is to give Kintzler a chance to return to form in 2019 while keeping him on a short leash if troubles persist.