Chicago Cubs: Constructing the perfect bullpen for 2021

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Chicago Cubs / Kyle Ryan
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Cubs looking for a left-hander to step up in a big way

This is another relatively easy niche in the bullpen to decipher. The Cubs clearly have shown faith in Kyle Ryan’s ability to rebound into his 2019 self rather than his disastrous 2020 campaign after tendering him a contract.

Chicago didn’t get much out of Andrew Chafin last year, but they’re likely drawn to the southpaw’s ability to get opponents to whiff on his pitches. If Ryan can go back to being a soft contact machine and Chafin can keep getting opponents to swing and miss, this is likely the tandem for all of 2021 barring injury.

Other contenders: Justin Steele, Brad Wieck, Rex Brothers

Ryan Tepera, Jonathan Holder and Brandon Workman will get key innings

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The middle innings are by far the most logjammed spot for the bullpen and it makes pitchers with options much more valuable for the Chicago Cubs. Adbert Alzolay is one such pitcher that is almost certain to fall victim to the numbers game. He has another option left, which makes it almost a certainty he’ll be starting in Iowa.

MVP vote-getter Ryan Tepera was brought back on a major league deal after being non-tendered by the team after the season and is almost certain to make it. Brandon Workman was also brought in on a major league deal and is likely to get a heavy workload this season. The final spot is likely to go to Jonathan Holder, which upon first glance of his stats, may not seem likely.

But a deeper dive into Holder reveals that he has insane amounts of spin on both his fastball and curveball. This is something the Cubs absolutely adore and have had success developing in the past with guys such as Wick and Wieck when they’ve been healthy. For that reason, Holder will likely not just make the roster, but be a real asset to the bullpen as well.

There is a real possibility that another reliever makes the team that isn’t listed now if Rowan Wick can’t make it to opening day. If that’s the case, it’s likely that Dan Winkler and Duane Underwood Jr. battle it out for the final spot in the rotation as both are now out of options and can refuse a demotion.

Other contenders: Dan Winkler, Duane Underwood Jr., Adbert Alzolay, Shelby Miller, Tyson Miller, Robert Stock, James Norwood

Next. Cubs: Which Brandon Workman will team get in 2021?. dark

The Cubs bullpen has a lot of questions up in the air that will only be answered during spring training. Unfortunately for Jed Hoyer, the bullpen also doesn’t have a whole ton of flexibility either, so tough choices will have to be made. This mix of arms has a lot of intrigue to it, however, and if constructed correctly, could be a unit that really surprises fans this year.