Chicago Cubs: Is it too early to worry about the 2020 bullpen?

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(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
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Chicago Cubs: Cishek was the best free agent signing from last year

The Cubs made six significant free agent signings before the 2018 season: Yu Darvish, Chatwood, Morrow, Cishek, Chris Gimenez and they re-signed Duensing. Of those six, only Cishek had a successful season in 2018.

Gimenez was brought in to be a defensive-minded backup catcher. But he didn’t provide enough of an offensive threat (4 hits in 28 at-bats) for even that role. So eventually the Cubs traded Gimenez away to the Twins for Bobby Wilson who was injured and never played a game for Chicago.

Darvish and Morrow showed flashes of what they could be but missed most of the year due to injuries. Most importantly they weren’t available at the end of the season when the Cubs were fighting for their playoff lives.

Cishek was a completely different story. In 2018, the side-arming righty was the workhorse of the bullpen. He pitched in 80 games across 70 1/3 innings (both career-highs). Cishek had excellent results: 2.18 ERA and 3.45 FIP with 78 strikeouts and 28 walks. Joe Maddon used him a lot as the mid-game closer.

Eventually, the team did try to reduce Cishek’s use. He pitched to 60 fewer batters and appeared in 10 fewer games in the second half.

However, that heavy workload appeared to take a toll on him. His ERA was almost a run higher in the second half (2.63 vs. 1.88). And in September and October, that climbed to 4.15.

Last winter, Cishek signed a two-year contract worth $6.5 million annually. So Cishek will be a free agent after this year. If the Cubs do a better job managing Cishek’s usage and if he pitches well again this year, they might try to re-sign him. When the 2020 campaign opens, he will be 33, so he is a year younger than Strop. But because he will be a free agent, there is no guarantee that he will be back – regardless of Chicago’s potential interest.

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