Chicago Cubs: Key free agent moves since 2016 – expectation vs. reality

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
(Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs: They opened the pocket books again for the 2018 season and it got mixed results.

Tyler Chatwood

Expectation: Finding a solidified arm to fill the bottom of the rotation with the ability to get plenty of groundballs with the movement on his pitches. Cubs hoped that getting Chatwood away form Coors Field would help him reach the potential with the stuff he has, and they paid him $38 million.

Reality: Season one was an absolute disaster. The stuff he threw had good velocity and all sorts of wicked movement…but the pitchers were never close the zone. Chatwood pitched to a 5.30 ERA and an abysmal 8.2 BB/9. He was the leader in all of baseball in walks (95) in just 103 2/3 innings. In year two as a long reliever/spot starter, to his credit, he improved a bit as he put up a 3.76 ERA in 38 appearances. If he can throw strikes, he can be effective.

Current Grade: D

Brandon Morrow

Expectations: The veteran pitcher signed a two-year, $21 million to fill the role as Cubs closer. With the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2017, he pitched to a 2.06 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 1.55 FIP in 45 games.

Reality: He was dang good when he pitched in the first half of 2018, putting up a 1.47 ERA, 2.96 FIP and recording 22 saves in 30 2/3 innings. Then he got hurt and has not pitched since. The Cubs bought out his contract and brought him back on a minor league deal, so while technically still a Cub, it is doubtful he pitches here again.

Hate to give him a harsh grade because his pitching was very good and injuries are freak accidents, the signing itself did not work in the long run with all the unfortunate setbacks.

Current/Final? Grade: D

Yu Darvish

Expectations: The big move. A man who since coming over from Japan in 2012 was a four-time All-Star and all-time leader in K/9 was brought in on a $126 million deal to be the next ace of the staff. In his first 131 starts he had over 1,000 strikeouts before joining the Chicago Cubs.

Reality: The grade overall looks meh now, but there is plenty of reason to believe it will improve. His first season was a disaster as he pitched in only eight games, posting to a 4.95 ERA, before getting hurt and missing the rest of the year. In 2019 he started off rocky again but then got his confidence and mojo back.

From July-September we saw the Darvish that we had been waiting for as he put up a 2.95 ERA and 124 strikeouts vs. seven walks in 14 starts. After an awful start to his Cubs tenure, things are looking to keep going up for him. We know how talented his.

Current Grade: C

Steve Cishek

Expectations: A reliable back-end bullpen piece that can either come in the seventh, eighth or ninth inning. Another experienced reliever, Cishek was a guy who entered 2018 with a career 2.73 ERA and 121 saves when he inked a two-year deal with the Cubs.

Reality: In his two years, he did the job he was supposed to. Over 2018-2019 he pitched to a 2.55 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 3.97 FIP in 150 games. He was worked like a dog and did struggle toward the end of both seasons with, but he came up big on a number of occasion out of the pen and helped put out some fires.

Final Grade: B