Cubs: Rowan Wick, once viewed as a future closer, now a liability

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

For the second straight year, the Chicago Cubs dismantled their relief corps at the trade deadline, looking to add young, controllable pieces at the front office eyes the future. That meant there were opportunities for other arms to step into the void down the stretch, auditioning and making their respective cases heading into 2023.

Rowan Wick finds himself in that group but, if anything, his stock has dramatically fallen this season. The 29-year-old right-hander has really struggled, posting a 5.46 xERA and allowing a career-worst 39.9 hard-hit rate in 53 1/3 innings pitched.

Since the All-Star Break, Cubs manager David Ross has handed Wick the ball 13 times and has been teed up to the tune of a .320 average. Over the last two weeks, things have gone from bad to worse: 12 hits allowed in just 5 1/3 innings of work, including four home runs, with just three strikeouts to four walks. 

Now, don’t get me wrong: Wick has been a hot and cold guy for some time. But this year, it’s been more cold than hot – and with the on-the-rise collection of young arms the Cubs have assembled in recent years, it might not be long before the right-hander is on the outside looking in.

Back in 2019, he looked like a potential closer of the future, breaking out with a 2.43 ERA and 2.82 FIP in 31 appearances. But since then, he’s trended in the wrong direction, with a 4.32 ERA and 3.81 FIP since the start of the 2020 campaign. Now those numbers aren’t horrendous, by any stretch, but when you consider the fact he looked like a late-inning shutdown arm, it’s clear the Cubs expected more.

Will the Cubs have a spot for Rowan Wick in the bullpen moving forward?

Looking ahead to 2023, you can assume there will be some free agent additions factoring into the bullpen, especially given the fact Chicago has a ton of money to spend. But there are going to be a lot of young arms vying for a spot in Ross’ bullpen mix next spring.

Left-hander Brandon Hughes has been a go-to guy for the Cubs, putting up a 3.14 ERA across 41 appearances this year, although his FIP suggests that mark may be friendlier than his performance warrants. Keegan Thompson could very well wind up sliding back into the swingman/long relief spot he held early in the year, especially if the team goes out and adds to the rotation this winter.

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Erich Uelman has been a pleasant surprise at the big league level, Manny Rodriguez is finally back with the team after missing almost the entire year and there is a plethora of prospects who will get a look in camp next spring. Consistency is key – and Wick better hope he finds it before the season ends because if he doesn’t, he’ll face an uphill climb trying to crack the roster next season.