The Chicago Cubs have many questions to answer this offseason, and one of them is who will take on the role of closer in 2021?
The Chicago Cubs 2020 abbreviated season has come and gone. Putting a disappointing 2019 behind them, the team managed to clinch the NL Central and enter the postseason. However, their postseason campaign ended rather quickly as the Miami Marlins swept the Northsiders.
Many issues can be attributed to the Cubs’ 2020 downfall. Between the need for contact hitting, and reliable starting and relief pitching, there are many holes in the roster that need to be filled before 2021.
The need to fill these spots is more imminent than ever before because of the large number of Cubs being granted free agency this offseason. The beloved 2016 World Series Champion core is being broken up four years later, and at this point, change is unavoidable. With that in mind, one of the biggest questions surrounding them going into the offseason is who will be the team’s closer next year?
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One of the several players entering free agency, and probably the most important to the Northsiders bullpen is Jeremy Jeffress. Jeffress had an incredible 2020 season. The 33-year old posted a 1.54 ERA across 22 appearances. Jeffress was also the Cubs’ save leader of the 2020 season with eight saves under his belt. The loss of a reliever like Jeffress could be detrimental to the Cubs’ bullpen. However, the Cubs could look towards veteran Craig Kimbrel as a possible solution.
Kimbel, 32, began the 2020 season with the closer gig with his name on it. However, after a handful of subpar performances, skipper David Ross questioned both hurler’s role and future within the Cubs bullpen. With that, Kimbrel was relieved of his closer duties, and relievers like Jeffress were given more opportunities to show their potential. By the end of the season, Kimbrel had improved upon his mechanics and reclaimed this closing role. To end his 2020, Kimbrel had eight scoreless outings and only allowed three hits and no walks in September.
In 2020 as a whole, Kimbrel posted a 5.28 ERA across eighteen games with two saves. Unlike Jeffress, Kimbrel’s contract goes through 2021 with a club/vesting option in 2022. Kimbrel’s tenure with the Cubs is not over yet, and the seven-time All-Star will have time to redeem himself. It is definitely not certain that Kimbrel will regain the closer role in 2021.
If not Kimbrel, they need to either hit the free-agent market or trade for a reliable reliever. Who knows, maybe Kimbrel might act as a trade chip. Hopefully, the Cubs figure their closer situation out in 2021 and continue to contend whatever the case may be.