Chicago Cubs: Next year’s bullpen could look wildly different

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
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Chicago Cubs: The closer’s role is locked down for years to come

Okay, so the ninth inning is handled. Which is something we haven’t been able to say heading into a year for some time. Chicago headed into 2015 with Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop covering the late innings.

Ahead of the trade deadline in 2016, Epstein pulled the trigger on Aroldis Chapman, adding the left-hander to the mix en route to the team’s first World Series championship in 108 years. But, at season’s end, he departed via free agency.

To address the closer’s role the next year, Chicago sent Jorge Soler to the Kansas City Royals for one year of right-hander Wade Davis. The veteran hurler nailed down 32 saves, finishing 56 games for the Cubs – who advanced to the NLCS for a third-straight year. But when the dust settled, the team again needed a ninth-inning arm.

Epstein bet on Dodgers setup man Brandon Morrow, inking him to a two-year deal with a third-year option on the heels of a breakout campaign. Well, that hasn’t gone particularly well. The oft-injured hurler didn’t throw a pitch after the All-Star Break last year and, after suffering yet another setback in his rehab, is done for the year. In all likelihood, his Cubs career is at an end.

But now, finally, Craig Kimbrel is here and the team has a long-term answer. He could, conceivably, be closing games for the team through 2022 – hopefully en route to Cooperstown. Without uncertainty in the closer’s role, the front office will shift its focus to the supporting cast.