After veteran reliever Jeremy Jeffress spent 2020 with the Chicago Cubs, he will be moving on to the Washington Nationals. The 33-year-old righty signed a minor league deal with the Nationals and will make $1.25 million if he makes it to the majors. Jeffress ironically becomes yet another former Cub to head to D.C. this offseason alongside Jon Lester and Kyle Schwarber.
Jeffress was one of the few consistent relievers for the Cubs in 2020. After Craig Kimbrel struggled in the closer’s role early on, Jeffress took over the role. In 22 games he posted a 1.54 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 17 strikeouts, 3.9 H/9, 54.4 percent groundball rate and eight saves.
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His 1.54 ERA was lowest among all relief pitchers on the team. In the end he got the job done and deserves credit for it. With all of the stress that the Cubs pen produced last year, it always felt pretty safe when Jeffress came in late. His efforts earned him being in the conversation of the reliever of the year award.
On the surface it seems like a big loss, and it could potentially be one. That said there are some concerns moving forward. A bigger dive into the numbers reveals a 4.09 FIP, 6.56 K/9, 4.63 BB/9 and .161 BABIP against. He was getting outs but not missing a lot of bats and was walking a bit more than desired.
While he got a lot of grounders, a number of them were hit fairly hard and were put away thanks to a good Cubs defense. He is not the 95-97 MPH thrower anymore and his strikeout rate has gone down over the past few seasons. Not saying he cannot be effective in 2021, but there is a possibility for regression.
Cubs moving forward, now without Jeremy Jeffress
The group of relievers the Cubs have in camp are likely the options for 2021. They recently made the move to add Brandon Workman and re-signed Andrew Chafin, which will probably be the last of their notable moves. Unless they surprise us with a David Roberston signing…but that seems highly unlikely.
This means the back end of the pen will likely lie primarily with Kimbrel and Rowan Wick to start. It is safe to say (if healthy) that Kimbrel, Wick, Chafin and Workman will make the roster. Other bullpen depth options include: Adbert Alzolay, Brailyn Marquez, Dan Winkler, Duane Underwood Jr., Jason Adam, Kohl Stewart, Jonathan Holder, Dillon Maples, Kyle Ryan and Brad Weick.
All the best to Jeffress with the Nationals. The guy seemed like a great teammate and was very refreshing to watch in an inconsistent bullpen last year. Now they have to make what they have work.