Chicago Cubs: Will we see this scene in the second, sixth or eighth this season?
How are the Cubs planning on using Tyler Chatwood this year? If it’s not the million dollar question, it’s part of a $25.5 million one. Will he be a starter, reliever, trade bait or will he be released?
First things first – with the amount of money left on his contract and the fact that he can’t be optioned to Iowa, Chatwood will be on a big league roster as long as he is not hurt. And, with five other reliable starters, where does that leave Chatwood, coming off a brutal year and being low man on the totem pole, so to speak?
If Chatwood can rediscover his pre-2018 form, you’re talking about a guy who walks 3-4.7 men per nine innings. With his ability to induce ground balls and strike guys out, that would be acceptable as both a starter and reliever. The problem becomes too much to overcome if it climbs anywhere near the 8.2 per nine innings he climbed to last season. It also makes him next to useless as a pure reliever. You absolutely cannot have guys coming out of the pen issuing free passes to the merry go round and Joe Maddon won’t stand for it.
If he is able to tone down the walks, and the five presumptive starters are all healthy and pitching effectively, where could Maddon use Chatwood? He could use him as a right-handed guy to throw multiple innings, in much the same vein as he has used Mike Montgomery from the left side. Eddie Butler did that (in addition to spot starting), and was effective at times before the Cubs included him in the Cole Hamels deal over the summer. (Who could forget the seven innings he gutted out in relief last March in Miami?)
Maddon could also use him to face tough righties in a relief role, or even go with him as a matchup guy in the seventh or eighth inning. While those two options are more pie in the sky, if Chatwood is on the roster, Maddon has to find a role for him and then use him, otherwise, he’s bringing a water pistol to a gun fight and handicapping his entire bullpen and squad.