Chicago Cubs: Three bold predictions for the upcoming season

Kris Bryant / Chicago Cubs (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
Kris Bryant / Chicago Cubs (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
Craig Kimbrel / Chicago Cubs (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs: Kimbrel makes the All-Star team; then gets traded

Last summer, Epstein shelled out a three-year, $43 million deal to land one of the game’s best closers in Craig Kimbrel. The Cubs had a dire need in the back end of the bullpen and, relatively speaking, landed the right-hander on a steal of a deal.

Well, that’s what we thought when it all went down.

Whether it was the irregular timing, accelerated ramp-up or a continuance of underlying trends from his time in Boston, Kimbrel was never ‘on’ for Chicago. He struggled – badly – putting up the worst numbers of his big league career. His control was lackluster (5.2 BB/9), his velocity was down and batters made him pay dearly (3.9 HR/9, 9.1 H/9).

We’re going to chalk it up to ramping up in the middle of the year. Pitchers are, as we all know, routine-driven individuals so there’s little doubt this impacted Kimbrel in 2019. But with a regular offseason and spring training under his belt, look for Kimbrel to not only bounce back – but tap into the analytics and tutelage of pitching coach Tommy Hottovy to get back to elite status.

Kimbrel will make the All-Star team after anchoring the Cubs bullpen in the first half. But Epstein will see the writing on the wall, knowing his team is a postseason contender, but not a legitimate threat to win it all. He’ll trade the bearded hurler back to the team that drafted him, the Atlanta Braves, in exchange for young pitching talent.