Recent reports from Chicago Cubs beat writers suggest that closer Adbert Alzolay is not close to a return after landing on the 15-day IL on September 11th with a right forearm strain.
With Alzolay likely done for the regular season, there is now a massive hole at the back end of the bullpen. This means the Cubs need someone to step up and shut down close contests for the remaining 10 games. Here are the three most likely candidates to fill that role.
1. Julian Merryweather
Few were expecting much when the Chicago Cubs took a flier on Julian Merryweather and claimed him off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays in January. But by the halfway point in the season, it was clear that Merryweather had become one of the most trustworthy arms at Manager David Ross's disposal along with Alzolay and Mark Leiter Jr. In 67 innings pitched this year, Merryweather's ERA currently sits at 3.09 with 91 strikeouts compared to 30 walks.
Although he's only collected one save out of two opportunities this year (and just 3 saves in his career), Merryweather has the stuff and track record this year to step into the closer role. Merryweather's fastball usually sits in the high 90s and occasionally touches 100 mph with an excellent slider. His whiff rate (34.9%) and strikeout percentage (32.6%) are some of the best numbers among relievers this year.
This is the first year where Merryweather has seen major success at the big league level, but he is in the best position to take the next step and the team needs him to close games. It is worth noting that Merryweather will be under team control for the next three seasons and he will reach arbitration this offseason.