Chicago Cubs: Brandon Morrow may yet play a role for the team

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Back with the organization on a minor league deal, right-hander Brandon Morrow may end up playing a critical role for the Cubs next season.

Two years ago, the Chicago Cubs gambled when they signed former Los Angeles setup man Brandon Morrow to a two-year, $21 million deal. They hoped the right-hander would step into the ninth-inning role and anchor the bullpen as a shutdown closer.

At first, it looked like the gamble paid off. Morrow was lights-out early in 2018, pitching to a 1.47 ERA across 30 2/3 innings of work. But then injuries took their toll. He never threw another pitch for the Cubs – and the bullpen took a step in the wrong direction without his presence.

More from Cubbies Crib

Last year, the club went out and signed Craig Kimbrel mid-season as Pedro Strop struggled and the team lacked a clear answer in the late innings. Kimbrel was far from dominant, but there’s hope that with a regular Spring Training and full ramp-up, he could return to form next season.

Now, he could have help in the form of Morrow, who agreed to terms with the team on a minor league deal, according to Bob Nightengale. There’s little reason to go into 2020 with high expectations for what the 35-year-old could bring to the table. But if he could put his injuries behind him and bring value to the Cubs, it could be a difference-maker for the club.

That’s easier said than done. Morrow went under the knife for elbow surgery in Nov. 2018 and hit bumps in his recovery multiple times last season, before being shut down. In September, he underwent another surgery – this time a nerve decompression procedure – and the Cubs decided to move on from him via a $3 million buyout at season’s end.

Right now, David Ross inherits a club with a great deal of questions in the bullpen. Kimbrel will obviously handle the ninth inning. But that’s about it. Rowan Wick, Brad Wieck and Kyle Ryan will play roles – but it remains to be seen what those respective roles will be. There aren’t a lot of shutdown options in the mix, but Morrow could be one.

Given the fact the team can’t play with the big boys in free agency this time around, it’s deals like this that could very well decide the Cubs’ fate in 2020. They need guys like Morrow or low-risk additions like Jharel Cotton to pan out to have any chance of getting back to the postseason.

Next. Keep an eye on these players from the Rule 5. dark

It’s not a headline-grabbing move or one that inspires a great deal of confidence. But if Morrow can stay on the mound and even be a league-average setup man ahead of Kimbrel in the ninth, Chicago might be able to piece together a workable bullpen – one far less shaky than we saw in 2019.