Cubs right-hander Jeremy Jeffress is a finalist for NL Reliever of the Year.
With Craig Kimbrel once again searching for answers and results on the mound, the Cubs desperately needed an answer in the ninth inning. They turned to former Milwaukee reliever Jeremy Jeffress, who signed with Chicago in February, and he did not disappoint.
Of course, mere days ago I wrote about how the team should be conscious of what some of the peripherals suggest about Jeffress’ performance if they bring him back next season. But at the end of the day, however he did so, he got the job done in the late innings this year, working to a 1.54 ERA with eight saves in 22 appearances.
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Without Jeffress, it’s unlikely the Cubs win the National League Central – something they hadn’t managed to do since 2017. With Kimbrel returning to form late in the season, the club possessed a nice combination of late-inning arms. Unfortunately, that mattered very little as the offense went completely silent as the year wound down.
The sinker-baller played a critical role for Chicago in 2020. It’s hard projecting what the upcoming offseason will look like given the lack of fans this year and the impact on team’s finances. But I suspect Theo Epstein will seriously consider trying to bring Jeffress back for another go-round in 2021.
Joining the veteran among the NL finalists are Brewers 26-year-old Devin Williams, the presumptive front-runner in the race. He set an all-time MLB reliever mark, striking out a whopping 53 percent of the batters he faced this year and worked to an unheard of 0.33 ERA on the year.
As a Cubs fan, it’s just what you want to see. A division rival adding an arm like that to their repertoire alongside the filthy Josh Hader.
The third and final NL arm in consideration for the award is a guy I was begging for Chicago to trade for ahead of the deadline in Trevor Rosenthal. Instead, San Diego landed him in a deal with the Royals and he was damn-near perfect from there on out, with a 17-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 10 appearances with the Padres.
On the American League side of things, Liam Hendriks, Brad Hand and Alex Colome are the three finalists. All three helped their respective clubs earn a trip to the postseason with strong work in the ninth inning.