Chicago Cubs should give Tyler Chatwood a chance in late innings

(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /

With an apparent need for an impact arm in the bullpen, the Chicago Cubs should see what Tyler Chatwood has to offer in the final year of his contract.

As things currently stand, the Chicago Cubs have plenty of potential in their mix of bullpen arms – but little in the way of proven, reliable assets. Right now, the club looks poised to rely on a group of young players looking to establish themselves as quality big league relievers.

While that can ultimately lead to uncovering the next generation of shutdown arms, it’s a gamble – make no mistake. Craig Kimbrel will handle the ninth-inning duties next season, with a mix of Kyle Ryan, Rowan Wick, Brad Wieck, Duane Underwood, Alec Mills and others rounding out the pen.

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Only a few of those guys have true dominant stuff – but supplementing this group with the likes of former starter Tyler Chatwood could be just enough to help the bullpen take the next step.

Of course, in his first year with Chicago, the right-hander was nothing short of a disaster. He led baseball in free passes, despite essentially being shut down late in the year because of his ineffectiveness.

He finished the year with a 5.30 ERA, 5.60 FIP and 1.860 WHIP in 103 2/3 innings of work. Despite some real swing-and-miss pitches in his arsenal, Chatwood was largely ineffective because of his inability to throw strikes.

But in 2019, something changed. Working with first-year pitching coach Tommy Hottovy, the right-hander worked between the rotation and bullpen, pitching to a 3.76 ERA and 1.330 WHIP in 33 relief appearances and five starts. Much like his teammate Yu Darvish, Chatwood largely rewrote the story surrounding him in the Windy City.

Now, we know Chatwood would prefer to start. He’s made that much perfectly clear. But that might not be in the cards again in 2020, especially if the Cubs go out and add a starter to replace Cole Hamels in the rotation.

Last season, Chicago relievers struggled in high-leverage spots, despite performing well by most ‘first-glance’ metrics. That has to change next season if the team hopes to return to the top of the National League Central – and that means adding some overpowering arms to mix with their pitch-to-contact guys.

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Chatwood still might cause some fans to grimace when mentioned as a potential reliever. But of the Cubs’ internal options, he represents the pitcher with the highest upside. It’s worth giving him a shot in the spring, if nothing else.