After offseason elbow surgery, the Chicago Cubs were hoping for a May return from their closer, Brandon Morrow. With a setback following his latest throwing session, Morrow has been shut down with no timetable for return.
Theo Epstein signed the Chicago Cubs’ Brandon Morrow in what is fast becoming one of the roughest offseason free agent runs of Epstein’s career. In giving Yu Darvish, Tyler Chatwood, and Morrow $185 million total in the offseason before the 2018 season, the hope was that the bullpen and rotation would be insured to withstand any issues and be extremely successful for at least a couple seasons.
Unfortunately, for the Cubs’ and their fans, those guys as a whole have not been overly successful or healthy so far wearing a Cubs’ uniform. The latest news that Morrow has experienced a setback only exacerbates what had already been seen as a brutal offseason for the front office two years ago, compounded by a non-existent one this past winter.
There is no arguing the potential Morrow brings to the ball club when firing on all cylinders, and it most certainly would have been a shrewd move if not for injuries (and his prior injury history). He had been the most successful of the three signings when able to toe the rubber, posting a 1.47 ERA and 22 saves in 35 appearances before he was placed on the DL last July 19 (and then subsequently shut down for good in September).
In a seemingly untimely and discreet move, the right-hander underwent arthroscopic debridement surgery on November 6 to clean up cartilage in his throwing elbow. While many questioned the timing of the surgery, given the fact it was a full month after the season ended and two months after Morrow was shut down for the year, there was still hope that he would be ready to go by May. That hope, it seems, was about as misplaced as all the dollars given to those three pitchers a little over a year ago.
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Oft-maligned and underrated by most pundits and fans in the offseason, the Cubs’ bullpen has already come under fire early in the season for coughing up leads, lacking guys who throw hard, and not being reliable on a day in, day out basis (though they’ve been much improved of late).
Heck, 2016 World Series performers Carl Edwards Jr. and Mike Montgomery aren’t even in the Cubs’ pen at the moment. This less than optimal news about Morrow only further underscores the lack of urgency, shortage of quality signings, and general malaise regarding this past offseason. The worst part is, at this point, no one knows if Morrow will even throw one pitch for the Cubs in 2019.
With Montgomery and Edwards not in the big-league pen at the moment, and Steve Cishek and Pedro Strop as the only trusted Joe Maddon-relievers, does this uncertainty tethered to Morrow’s right elbow push the Cubs to go after a guy like Craig Kimbrel despite a lack of financial flexibility? I surely don’t know what the front office can or will do, but it would seem that the Cubs could use another reliable bullpen arm in the near future if the 2019 version of the Cubs is to be a contender. Just curious- what are Adbert Alzolay, Brailyn Marquez, and Riley Thompson up to?
Regardless of what happens with Morrow in 2019, the Cubs’ bullpen is going to need some reinforcements at some point. Whether that’s a healthy and productive return for both Montgomery and Edwards, or some minor league surprises, even with a healthy Morrow, it’s a long way till the 9th inning.