After getting a slight increase to payroll for 2021, the Chicago Cubs have wasted no time patching up some of the holes on the roster. Curiously absent from those additions, however, has been the bullpen which had seen only buy-low signings to this point.
After Jed Hoyer’s comments earlier this week, Chicago reportedly agreed to terms with former Boston Red Sox closer Brandon Workman on a one-year deal.
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While he was commenting on the inaccuracy of the recent Mets and Kris Bryant trade rumors, Hoyer snuck in an interesting line about a pending big league reliever signing. The Cubs have been connected to several relievers throughout the offseason, so speculation ran rampant as to which guy he might be referring to in his remarks.
Workman, 32, is coming off a horrendous 2020 season with the Phillies in which he got torched to the tune of a 2.237 WHIP and 5.95 ERA. But he’s just two years removed from a dominant run as the Red Sox’ go-to guy out of the pen in 2019. That season, he worked to a 1.88 ERA and 2.46 ERA while making 73 appearances.
Prior to the move being announced, I had some other veteran relievers on the brain – and, who knows, maybe Hoyer will be able to keep adding as spring training gets underway.
If I were a betting man, I’d have assumed Hoyer was talking about David Robertson given the recent interest the team showed in the veteran righty. While Robertson struggled with injuries in his short tenure in Philadelphia, everything before that was terrific. Between the White Sox and Yankees, he posted a 2.88 ERA with a 2.81 FIP and 1.145 WHIP, all promising numbers that would make him a welcoming addition assuming he can regain his previous form or something close to it.
The other arm that makes the most sense due to the connection during the offseason is our old friend Jeremy Jeffress. Despite an interest in reuniting with their closer from last year, there hasn’t been much reported activity between the two sides since then. The difference is now the Cubs actually have the money to pay him and that payday is well deserved after his excellent 2020 performance.
Workman might be the finishing touch on an irregular offseason for the Cubs. If he can return to form and provide a steady presence in the bullpen, the team could be in much better shape when it comes to relievers. Craig Kimbrel will get the ninth – but getting the ball to him is just as critical.