Cubs will look for experienced relievers once the lockout ends

(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

There are plenty of directions Jed Hoyer and the Chicago Cubs could go once the lockout ends – regardless of whether that happens in January or June (let’s hope it’s not the latter). But, according to Russell Dorsey of the Chicago Sun-Times, the bullpen will be the team’s area of focus when the offseason resumes.

That aligns with multiple reports we’ve seen this winter. After all, Hoyer crossed off rotation reinforcements early on, adding Wade Miley and Marcus Stroman to a mix that already featured the likes of Kyle Hendricks, Adbert Alzolay, Justin Steele and Alec Mills, among others. Now, the Cubs are pivoting to add that same type of veteran presence to the bullpen, which brings even less experience than the returning starters.

"“I don’t think you can have a bullpen that is entirely young guys,” Jed Hoyer said. “For that reason, I think you need some guys that can help them through it as mentors down there. There’s an art to building the bullpen as far as how you get ready, your mentality going into the game, how you approach it. . . . You don’t have all veterans, but I think having some veterans to help young guys is really important.”"

Of course, at the trade deadline last summer, Hoyer jettisoned his trio of veteran relievers who, early in the season, helped the team stay afloat with a remarkable stretch of dominance. Andrew Chafin was sent to Oakland and, in separate trades, Chicago sent Ryan Tepera and Craig Kimbrel to the White Sox.

Chafin and Tepera just kept rolling following the trade, while Kimbrel struggled mightily. The Sox picked up Kimbrel’s option for 2022, reportedly with the idea of trading him on the brain, but Chafin and Tepera are left hanging in free agency, waiting for the transaction freeze to end.

Chicago Cubs: Andrew Chafin checks almost every box for what this team needs

Either of them would make for a solid get for Hoyer – but Chafin, in particular, makes sense given the team’s complete lack of left-handed relievers. Given the numbers he put up during his stay on the North Side (2.06 ERA, 2.69 FIP in 43 appearances), the motivation for bringing him back is clear.

Dorsey mentions Chafin, along with Archie Bradley and Brad Hand, as speculative fits for the Cubs. Whoever ends up joining the team will be tasked not only with performing on the mound, but mentoring a group of young arms that includes the likes of Manuel Rodriguez and Codi Heuer, along with a mess of others who will play a role in 2022.

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"“I love power pitching. I love our pitching. . . . I think there’s no doubt, as we’ve talked about that. We want to diversify our arm angles and pitch mixes and stuff like that. And certainly in the bullpen, that’ll be something we’ll focus on.”"