Chicago Cubs: A look at the current state of the bullpen

Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images
Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images /
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Chicago Cubs
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

It took a while, but the Cubs bullpen turned into a strength last season.

The current bullpen options on the active roster give the Cubs a solid foundation to work with this upcoming season.

Do I think this group will be enough to push the Cubs through the postseason? Absolutely not. It’s rare for a team to go a whole season without any changes to their bullpen, and you could never have enough weapons. I think the team could still use one or two proven arms, and some combination of the current activities, plus a recent minor league addition could add up to a successful bullpen formula.

Relievers on the Active Roster (2020 Statistics)

  • RHP Craig Kimbrel (33) (18 games) 5.28 ERA 1.435 WHIP
  • RHP Rowan Wick (28) (19 games) 3.12 ERA 1.385 WHIP
  • LHP Kyle Ryan (29) (18 games) 5.17 ERA 1.404 WHIP
  • RHP Duane Underwood Jr. (25) (17 games) 5.66 ERA 1.500 WHIP
  • RHP Dan Winkler (30) (18 games) 2.95 ERA 1.200 WHIP
  • RHP Jason Adam (29) (13 games) 3.29 ERA 1.244 WHIP
  • RHP Jonathan Holder (27) (18 games) 4.98 ERA 1.662 WHIP

Some names on the active roster not mentioned above include right-handers James NorwoodDillon Maples,and lefty Brad Wieck who pitched in just six combined games last season. The trio is quickly running out of time to find their place in the Cubs bullpen before the team decides to move on.

Career Statistics

  • RHP James Norwood (27) (23 games) 4.50 ERA 1.864 WHIP
  • RHP Dillon Maples (28) (31 games) 8.49 ERA 5.000 WHIP
  • LHP Brad Wieck (29) (50 games) 5.27 ERA 1.078 WHIP

Another active player with a small 2020 sample size is the No. 1 prospect in the Cubs’ farm system, Brailyn Marquez. The 6’4 185-pound lefty made his big league debut in the regular season finale, giving up five earned runs on two hits while walking three and striking out one batter in two-thirds of an inning. It was far from perfect, but Marquez has some nasty stuff and he will be a dangerous option for the Cubs if he can piece it together for this upcoming season.

Assuming the team doesn’t bring back Jeffress, Rowan Wick and Craig Kimbrel will likely compete in Spring Training for the closer role. Wick proved to be the man for the job until an oblique injury ended his season last summer.

At this point, we all know about Kimbrel’s story since the Cubs signed him in the middle of the 2019 season. Say what you want, but Kimbrel turned around a terrible start to his 2020 campaign to finish with a 1.42 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings during his final 14 games. The right-hander is due $16 million in the final year of his current contract which includes a $16 million team option and $1 million buyout for 2022.

Whether or not the Cubs hold onto Kimbrel remains to be seen. I don’t think any team is going to take a flyer on that amount of money before the season starts, so depending on how the Cubs are doing around the trade deadline, that could be around the time Kimbrel gets moved.

Next. Examining the players in the Yu Darvish trade. dark

I’m usually one of the biggest critics when it comes to not spending money when it comes to team needs. When it comes to the bullpen, I think it’s different. It’s hard to find a Mariano Rivera type of arm where you can guarantee the money is being well spent. That’s the reason there’s so much turnover in bullpens and also a reason why piecing together a ‘pen with low-risk moves and a few solid arms might not be a bad formula.