Chicago Cubs still have a lefty problem in the bullpen

Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images
Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images /

The Cubs’ Theo Epstein made the team’s priorities clear at the trade deadline.

In the hours leading up to this year’s trade deadline, the Cubs orchestrated separate deals with the Boston Red Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks to acquire left-handed relievers Josh Osich and Andrew Chafin, respectively.

With Kyle Ryan struggling and the likes of Brad Wieck and Jose Quintana on the injured list, these moves seemingly bolstered Chicago’s bullpen depth and gave David Ross some more options in the middle innings.

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The bullpen is indeed beginning to take shape, but getting quality innings out of left-handers is still an issue in part due to a lack of trust and availability.

Osich looked solid in his first outing against the Pittsburgh Pirates, and he struck out a pair in 1 1/3 scoreless innings against the Cincinnati Reds last Wednesday. But Osich also gave up two runs on three hits while managing just one out against the St. Louis Cardinals on Sept. 6.

Rex Brothers rejoined the active roster after Adbert Alzolay was sent to the alternate site, but he has not pitched since July, when he allowed two homers and three runs in 2 1/3 frames.

Ryan has had a better go of things lately, with a 1.59 ERA and .490 OPS against in his last seven appearances. But Ross has clearly exhibited caution in terms of Ryan’s usage, as he has thrown just 5 2/3 innings in the past four weeks. The 28-year-old also has a 7.01 FIP on the year.

Meanwhile, Chafin and Quintana are unknowns from a timeline perspective.

Jordan Bastian of reported “Q” was supposed to have a light workout on Wednesday after a bullpen session on Monday. Bastian also reported Chafin was slated to throw a simulated game Wednesday.

Both Quintana and Chafin figure to see action in the bullpen towards the end of the year, with Ross telling Bastian the team will hope to “build” Quintana back up. Chafin should be an upgrade as a strikeout pitcher with a career .616 OPS against left-handed batters. But again, their contributions are predicated on health.

This begs the question: where else can the Cubs turn for left-handed relief help?

It is somewhat surprising the team has not given Brailyn Marquez a look, particularly given he has apparently been dominating hitters at the team’s alternate site.

Marquez posted 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings between Single-A and High-A ball last year, and might well have the power stuff the Cubs are lacking from that side of the rubber.

Additionally, whatever happened to the idea Burl Carraway would be a fast riser?

The Cubs selected Carraway – a former Dallas Baptist University standout – in the second round of the 2020 MLB June Amateur Draft, and his plus fastball seemingly made him a candidate to possibly appear in the majors this year. Yet, Carraway has hardly had any buzz as of late.

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The best teams in the National League (Dodgers, Padres and Braves) all have impact lefty bats. Chicago desperately needs more production from their left-handed relievers, and it might be time to pull out all the stops in the final two weeks.