The Ricketts have finally loosened the purse strings for the Chicago Cubs, adding both Joc Pederson and Trevor Williams to fill gaps in the outfield and rotation. While another low-cost arm for the rotation is definitely still on their radar, it’s time to turn our attention to the bullpen and particularly toward old friend Brandon Kintzler.
Despite mutual interest, Kintzler and the Marlins still haven’t worked anything out and the Cubs should absolutely jump at the opportunity to bring back the veteran.
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Kintzler put together the best performance of his entire career last year, continuing where he left off upon leaving the Cubs after 2019. He posted a 2.22 ERA with a groundball rate of 56.6 percent, making him a good fit for a Cubs team that features an infield with two Gold Glove winners and a nominee assuming Nico Hoerner is playing. Kintzler also greatly improved his slider in 2020 resulting in a wOBA of .182 and xwOBA of .165 when using it.
Brandon Kintzler would add stability to a Cubs bullpen full of unproven arms
The big knock against Kintzler is, as always, his high FIP, but his abilities the past two years went beyond simply being lucky. In Miami, he showed his ability to produce weak contact at a rate above the MLB average and greatly limit fly balls, something that should play very well on windy days at Wrigley.
Really, his case is very similar to that of Jeremy Jeffress (who the Cubs are also looking into bringing back). In a lot of ways, Jeffress also got somewhat lucky in his time as the Cubs closer, but his success was based around constantly pitching competitively and never giving in when behind in the count. While both might regress some in the next year, I doubt it would be enough to make either not worth the cost.
Kintzler is just coming off a $3.25 million contract with the Marlins and given his age and the peripherals around him, I don’t see him getting much of a pay raise. Chicago should still have room to add him or Jeffress into the fold and either would add significant big league experience to a bullpen relying more on quantity than quality.
It’s now or never if the team wants to buy in on a reunion with Kintzler. We got to see firsthand how good he can be when paired up with Tommy Hottovy and the Pitch Lab. If they end up missing out on Jeffress, they could hardly go wrong grabbing Kintzler on a low-cost, short term deal to shore up the bullpen.