Cubs have a recent history of free agent pitchers starting slow

(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /
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Craig Kimbrel / Chicago Cubs
(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /

Cubs: It was so ugly early one that there was virtually no trust in him until 2021

After remaining a free agent well into the 2019 season, the Cubs signed elite closer Craig Kimbrel in early June to a three-year, $43 million deal with a 2022 option. Kimbrel came to Chicago with 333 career saves, a 1.91 ERA and 14.7 K/9. He had won a World Series with the Boston Red Sox the year prior.

It took time for Kimbrel to ramp up after signing, and he would not make his Cubs debut until June 27. He appeared in 17 games and pitched to a 6.53 ERA, gave up a whopping nine home runs (career-high to this day), walked 12 batters and posted a 1.6 WHIP. While he saved 13/16 games, he was struggling mightily while going out there.

In 2020 he saw early struggles again, and the closing duties were transferred to Jeremy Jeffress. It took until 2021 to return to form. Converting 23 of 25 saves, Kimbrel posted a microscopic 0.49 ERA, 1.10 FIP, 0.71 WHIP, 15.7 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 39 appearances. His efforts earned him his eighth career All-Star nod. That stretch of dominance lowed his Cubs cumulative ERA from 6.00 after 2020, to 3.22 by the time he finished his final appearance as a Cub.

If one were to go back in time and show a Cubs fan in 2019 his final numbers only (not broken down by season), the unknowing fan would probably think his overall tenure was pretty good.