Chicago Cubs: Héctor Neris could bring a stabilizing veteran presence

Mandatory Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports /

The Chicago Cubs saw 24 relief pitchers take the mound last season. Twenty-four relief pitchers stepped onto the bump, and while some had positive experiences, there was a high level of inefficiency and downright lousy pitching.

One of the intriguing parts – or not that intriguing depending on who you ask – was the fact the Cubs managed to send out two dozen relievers in a season that ended 20 games south of the .500 mark. Maybe it got out of control, and likely the case was the importance of exposure and experience. But, on the other hand, perhaps it was the Cubs being, well, simply, the Cubs.

Clubs cannot overlook a strong bullpen – you’re seeing that here in the postseason more than ever. With free agency looming, it would behoove the Cubs to examine all angles, and therefore thoughtfully consider each available avenue. One such avenue is Philadelphia Phillies reliever Hector Neris.

Chicago Cubs: Levying veteran talent could help right the ship

Neris is 32 years old, turning 33 next June, and has spent his entire career with one team. However, he is also a veteran right-hander who understands how to be successful. That dynamic  could help him lead the young blossoming arms in the mix to a higher level and provide a balance  entering the 2022 campaign.

In 2021, Neris showed improvement in many areas – and is still in a place in his career where age shouldn’t be a deterring factor for interested clubs. He also may provide a discount if he does not re-sign with Philadelphia, which always seems to be the name of the game for Chicago.

To caveat, Neris isn’t an untouchable arm on the mound. He has been somewhat all over the place in the past few years. However, in 2019, his last before the shortened season in 2020, he was that dominant arm. In 67 2/3 innings, the righty posted a 2.93 ERA with 89 strikeouts. Last season, Neris saw his ERA increase. However, he did improve his FIP in a big way.

This year, Neris dropped his ERA from 4.57 to 3.63 and his xFIP from 4.10 to 3.65. In addition, his strikeout rate again pushed over the 30 percent threshold to 31.6 percent and the walk rate dropped from 12.6 percent in 2020 to 10.3 percent this season. Per Baseball Savant, Neris finished in the 90th-percentile or higher in all but two categories.

One of the underlooked parts of his game came in the area of contact. He’s done a consistently good job in limiting hard contact to just over 31 percent, and most of that went at a medium rate or lower.

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The Cubs need help in all areas of their roster and their club as a whole. Tom Ricketts has already stated that his club intends to spend this offseason. If able to land a guy like Neris on a team-friendly contract, which is highly likely unless they’re outbid, it would help the bullpen and allow the more inexperienced guys to get their developmental time back without being thrust into a role they’re not yet ready for. Sounds like a win-win for the Cubs and Neris.