Chicago Cubs add another high-upside arm in Jeremy Jeffress
Continuing their trend of low-risk, high-upside signings, the Chicago Cubs added right-hander Jeremy Jeffress on a one-year deal Tuesday morning.
If the Cubs assemble enough arms, you’d have to think they’ll be able to piece together at least a semi-competitive pen. At least, that seems like the modus operandi Theo Epstein is operating under this offseason as the organization looks to cut payroll, while somehow remaining competitive.
On Tuesday, Chicago inked former Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Jeremy Jeffress to a one-year deal worth $850,000 with another $200,000 potentially coming his way in incentives. It’s a low-risk signing for the Cubs, who desperately need some answers in a bullpen that struggled in high-leverage spots last season.
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Jeffress, 32, has seen his share of ups and downs during his 10-year big league career. He’s coming off one of his lowest points, though. Last year, the righty pitched to a 5.02 ERA (with a much more palatable 3.96 FIP) and 9.3 H/9 across 48 appearances for the Brewers. Those struggles, paired with a velocity downtick, was enough for Milwaukee to move on.
But he’s just two years removed from Jeffress dominating out of the pen, pitching to a 1.29 ERA and 2.78 FIP in career-high 76 2/3 innings of work.
For the Cubs, he represents another potential late-inning presence to bridge the gap to closer Craig Kimbrel. The team has amassed countless options – most of whom seem likely to compete for a job this spring. So by no means will Jeffress be handed a role, especially given his struggles last season.
Even Kimbrel isn’t a sure thing for first-year skipper David Ross. The potential Hall of Fame closer turned in the worst season of his illustrious career in 2019 after joining the Cubs mid-season. Chicago is undoubtedly hoping a more structured routine and timeline will help get him back on track this year – but the pen still has plenty of questions.
Rowan Wick and Brad Wieck both return, along with Kyle Ryan, after surprisingly solid showings last year. But the team lost Steve Cishek, Brandon Kintzler and likely Pedro Strop – three key arms in last year’s mix.
Jeffress will look to re-establish his value in 2020 with a former division rival. If the sinker-baller can figure things out, he could be a key member of a bullpen that’s looking more and more like an island of misfit toys by the day.