Cubs: Brandon Workman needs to be the closer on Opening Day

(Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
(Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images) /

Before spring training got started, David Ross wasted no time in naming Craig Kimbrel the Chicago Cubs closer and to say it’s not working out well is putting things mildly.

Although there’s still time to work things out, Kimbrel has been nothing short of disastrous in camp with apparent delivery issues contributing to his poor performance thus far. 

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The worst case scenario has played out and all of Kimbrel’s progress from last season is seemingly lost. His velocity is dipping back down into the mid-to-low 90s and he’s consistently hanging meatballs for the opposition to punish. In just 2 2/3 innings, he’s allowed nine runs, but at this point, even the outs he gets are terrifying. Even Ross has admitted that he’s not liking what he’s seeing from Kimbrel.

The Cubs don’t have a ton of great options should things continue to go off the rails for Kimbrel this spring, but right now it really should be Brandon Workman who gets the nod in the ninth on Opening Day.

Unlike Kimbrel, Workman’s performance this spring has been more characteristic of his better self. He’s also one of the few veteran options on the team who is both healthy and has a somewhat recent reputation of success in the closing role.

Cubs: Brandon Workman is the best option to handle the ninth.

The Cubs brought in Workman on a bargain of a deal after a rough 2020 for the former Red Sox closer. Workman’s struggles after a trade to Philadelphia, however, are an outlier compared to his last three seasons in Boston. From 2017 to 2019, Workman had a 2.59 ERA with a 1.152 WHIP in over 150 innings. His best work came in 2019 which notably saw his strikeouts increase to an impressive 13.1 per nine innings.

Workman’s spring results so far also inspire much more confidence. Through his first four innings pitched, he has no earned runs to his name and has already racked up six strikeouts compared to only one from Kimbrel. This is a small sample size, but even if Workman is somewhere closer to his 2017-18 form, he’s far and away better than a Kimbrel without velocity and command.

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Of course, the best ending to all this is Kimbrel working through his delivery issues and Workman acting as a solid setup, but everything in Kimbrel’s game right now is cause for alarm. Workman needs to be their 2021 Jeremy Jeffress and step up into that closer role to cover for a righty that can’t consistently keep his form. He’s the team’s best option at this juncture, even if it leaves this bullpen feeling thinner than before.