Chicago Cubs: Expect plenty of competition for roles this spring

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
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Chicago Cubs: Let’s see if we can Frankenstein a bullpen, shall we?

Despite an overall strong showing in 2019, Chicago’s bullpen struggled when it mattered most. No matter who Joe Maddon trotted out, it seemed like more often than not, things went sideways in those high-leverage spots.

We’d all hoped that bringing in free agent closer Craig Kimbrel mid-season would help. It did not. The right-hander put up the worst numbers of his career and did little to solidify the back end of the bullpen. A 1.597 WHIP and 8.00 FIP tell you just about all you need to know there.

But, under contract for two more years, he’s the closer moving forward. So we’ll work backward from there, trying to highlight some guys who will bridge the gap from the rotation to Kimbrel. Kyle Ryan broke out as a quality southpaw last season and there’s no reason to think he, along with Brad Wieck, aren’t the top left-handers as things currently stand.

Other potential left-handed options include CD Pelham and Justin Steele, although the latter has not yet pitched above Double-A and really struggled with Tennessee last season (5.59 ERA in 38 2/3 innings).

From the right side, Rowan Wick seems like your setup man. This kid put it all together in 2019 – stepping up when manager Joe Maddon needed big outs. From there, it gets a little shakier. Chicago lost Pedro Strop, Brandon Kintzler and Steve Cishek via free agency (assuming they don’t re-sign) and that’s a big void to fill.

We’re going to look for guys like Dan Winkler, Trevor Megill, Ryan Tepera and Alan Webster to step up. That’s not what I’d call a mix that will inspire fear, but right now, it’s what we have to work with.