Chicago Cubs: Why not consider Adbert Alzolay for Opening Day bullpen?

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /

If the Chicago Cubs’ budget truly is as tight as it seems, why not consider top pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay for the Opening Day bullpen?

To say that I’m feeling déjà vu would be an understatement.

Last February, I wrote a hypothetical piece about Chicago Cubs top pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay. I presented the idea of Alzolay starting his MLB career as a reliever, much like Chris Sale did with the Chicago White Sox. Check it out here, if you feel so inclined.

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Almost a year later and the idea of Alzolay joining the Cubs as a reliever makes more sense now than it did then. In fact, it makes even more sense now than it did when I wrote about the 23-year-old in December.

The Cubs’ apparent “budget woes” have been written and talked about extensively this offseason. By now, Cubs fans know the team’s projected Opening Day payroll will stand around $225 million, exceeding the luxury tax threshold of $206 million.

How the bullpen looks as of today

That number is sure to rise, as the Cubs could still add a veteran catcher to backup Willson Contreras. Perhaps the team signs a reliever, too. With Alzolay, though, paying to add a veteran reliever is truly unnecessary.

As things currently stand, the Cubs will likely open the season with 12 position players and 13 pitchers on their 25-man roster. By excluding the team’s projected starting rotation (and a sixth man in Mike Montgomery), the Cubs will have seven bullpen spots.

Closer Brandon Morrow will open the 2018 season on the disabled list following offseason elbow surgery. In his absence, one should expect the team to lean on Pedro Strop, Steve Cishek and Carl Edwards Jr. in the bullpen.

But who will be the other four relievers?

Brandon Kintzler, Brian Duensing and Tyler Chatwood are all bounce back candidates in 2019 following disappointing 2018 campaigns. From there, the Cubs have about ten options for one bullpen spot, including Randy Rosario, Dillon Maples and James Norwood.

Alzolay to the rescue

Of the aforementioned pitchers, only Montgomery and Duensing are left-handed pitchers. Neither of the two blow hitters away with velocity, rather relying on their pitching repertoire for success.

Should the Cubs sign a hard-throwing lefty or even bring back Justin Wilson? Perhaps, but how much money they’re willing (or unwilling) to spend could prohibit any major move. That brings us to Alzolay.

If the plan is to spend little in free agency, Alzolay is an intriguing relief option for the Cubs. His fastball sits 92-96 MPH and has touched 98 in the minor leagues.

The goal for Alzolay is surely for him to become a starting pitcher. Considering his injury, though, it’s unlikely he would start off the minor league season in the rotation. If he did, one would think he would be on an innings limit and/or pitch count.

The Cubs starting rotation is finalized and Alzolay is coming off of a lat injury that prematurely ended his 2018 season. If he has a good spring, why have him wasting away at Triple-A when he can help the big league team?

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Granted, Spring Training and the MLB regular season are two completely different animals. Since Alzolay is knocking on the big league door as is and will be healthy, though, he could be an intriguing option for the Cubs bullpen 2019.