The bullpen has been a question mark surrounding the team for a long time. Even though, as a whole, this group has been relatively good over the last few seasons. Where they have struggled over the last few years has been in high-leverage situations.
We already know the closer for the Chicago Cubs in 2021 will be Craig Kimbrel. Manager David Ross already put any idea that he wouldn’t be the closer to rest. With the money he is making, he should be the guy that is trusted with the biggest outs and comes through.
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One guy who, when healthy, has proven himself over the last few seasons is big righty Rowan Wick. He was traded to the Cubs from the Padres before the 2019 season and immediately made his presence felt in Chicago.
That year, in 31 games Wick posted a 2.43 ERA across 33 1/3 innings pitched. One thing that jumps off the stat sheet is that he gave up zero home runs. In the world of the long ball we live in, it’s very impressive for a young guy out of the bullpen to give up zero in a solid amount of innings. He also was trusted late in the season as the Cubs closer when Kimbrel was down with an injury. He ended up getting two saves.
Then in 2020, Wick was really good once again in a shortened season. In 19 games Wick posted a 3.12 ERA with 17 1/3 innings pitched. He only gave up one home run in 2020, a good sign out of a late-inning reliever. Wick was used mostly as the eighth-inning guy for most of the season. Then was also used as the closer when Kimbrel wasn’t available. His 2020 was cut short due to an oblique injury.
Cubs: Heading into 2021 Rowan Wick needs to be the setup man
Wick will be sidelined to start the spring with an intercostal issue (which occurs when the muscles between the ribs pull inward). The right-hander’s long-term health should be the main priority, given he’s under team control until 2025. He shouldn’t be rushed back this season especially with it being the full 162 game grind. Let him take as much time as needed to get back to fully healthy.
When back at 100 percent, Wick should – without question – be the setup man in the bullpen. He has proven himself over the last two seasons that he has what it takes to be a dominant late-inning reliever and the Cubs need as much stability at the back end as they can muster.