Looking to add more swing-and-miss to the bullpen mix, the Chicago Cubs are reportedly bringing back right-hander Ryan Tepera via a one-year, $800,000 deal.
Tepera, 33, could more than double the value of his contract through incentives and active roster bonuses – but even if he maxed it out, it’s still just a $1.75 million hit – a more than palatable sum. Last year, the veteran played a key role in the pen of first-year Cubs Manager David Ross and it looks like he’ll have the chance to do so again in 2021.
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Even though he netted a tenth-place MVP vote last fall, Tepera isn’t a guy you’d likely think of when mulling over impact arms. But Statcast was particularly high on his body of work last year and those metrics undoubtedly played a role in the team bringing him back into the fold.
Tepera ranked in the 99th percentile in whiff rate, 94th in K% and 77th in xBA. He missed a lot of bats – a skillset that isn’t necessarily front-and-center with this group of arms, which is largely built around soft contact arms.
Cubs have a clear need in the bullpen
The former Blue Jays hurler struck out a career-high 34.1 percent of hitters in 2020 and could slide right into a middle-innings role for Ross this year.
Chicago will head into the regular season with veteran Craig Kimbrel in the closer’s role, and some combination of Andrew Chafin and Brandon Workman handling the setup duties. Rowan Wick would make a ton of sense in the eighth, as well, but he continues to battle back from an intercostal injury that dates back to last year.
It’ll be a mix of new and old for the Cubs out of the pen. Former Yankees reliever Jonathan Holder and right-hander Kohl Stewart were added on big league deals and you’ve got returning guys like Dan Winkler who could get a look along with a mix of other arms in camp.
Early in the offseason, Chicago non-tendered Tepera to avoid paying him a raise in the arbitration process. After going all winter without a new suitor, the former 19th-round pick wound up back with the Cubs regardless – and will make just about the same amount he did last season.