3 relievers the Chicago Cubs should consider calling up for the bullpen

After Monday night's meltdown and general bullpen shakiness to start the year, there are a few internal arms the Chicago Cubs should already be looking at for help.
Chicago Cubs v Kansas City Royals
Chicago Cubs v Kansas City Royals / Norm Hall/GettyImages
1 of 3

It's way too early in the season to be making proclamations about the Chicago Cubs, but there are already major concerns to be had. Despite a stellar offense that's been grinding out wins and a starting rotation that has enjoyed some strong performances despite injuries, the bullpen is a mess. Julian Merryweather is injured, Adbert Alzolay and Hector Neris haven't looked too sharp to start the year, and, save for Mark Leiter Jr., the rest either have question marks or bright red flags hanging over them. Already, it may be time to start looking to Iowa for help.

Heading into Tuesday night's game, the Cubs bullpen held a 5.12 ERA through 45 2/3 innings. The key culprits so far have been Jose Cuas and Yency Almonte, both with a 9.00 ERA, but Monday night's nuclear meltdown also featured a severe lack of control from Neris, Alzolay, and Luke Little. Even worse, that 8-0 to 9-8 collapse came after the bullpen nearly cost a game against the Rockies (that they coincidentally won 9-8). There are fair caveats - namely that Javier Assad, Ben Brown, and Drew Smyly have been forced to cover for an injured Justin Steele and Jameson Taillon rather than help in relief - but this performance isn't tenable if the Cubs want to be competitive.

Blame should fall on Jed Hoyer's shoulders for the lack of proven, quality depth in the 'pen, especially when there were so many affordable options available. Yet, if there is one thing positive that can be said about this group, it's that there are optionable arms that can be moved around to try and create the best relief corps possible.

In a perfect world, the Cubs would use some of their prospect capital in the minor leagues to swing an early season trade and land another quality reliever that they should've acquired during the offseason. That just isn't likely to happen under Hoyer, but they can start the churn of optionable arms early to prevent any more calamitous losses. Let's look at three options they could turn to in the early going as bandaids amid the struggles.

#1: Hayden Wesneski

Hayden Wesneski had a rough Spring training performance, to say the least. A 9.82 ERA following a year in which he pitched to a lackluster 4.63 ERA and 5.48 FIP in the majors warranted him opening the season in Triple-A where he would have the runway to pitch as a starter. Likely, the Cubs would love for him to become a part of the rotation after showing flashes of brilliance during his 2022 debut, but he might ultimately be better in the bullpen.

So far in Iowa, Wesneski has made two starts with mixed results. His first appearance lasted three scoreless innings with only a pair of hits and two punchouts. His second, meanwhile, saw him give up three runs on four hits with a pair of walks across 3 1/3 innings. Combined, that's a perfectly fine 4.26 ERA - not great, not bad, and certainly not enough information to make the call one way or another.

Yet, a few things are working in his favor. For one, Wesneski is already on the Cubs' 40-man roster, making a call-up all the easier as it wouldn't require designating anyone for assignment. With Assad, Brown, and Smyly all occupied plugging holes in the rotation, it also wouldn't hurt to have him on board as another bulk guy who could go for multiple innings in relief. There's reason to believe he can be effective in the bullpen, assuming he can limit the walks and wield his devastating slider to rack up whiffs in the middle innings of a game.

Assuming the Cubs make a move before Taillon returns and Brown and Smyly could focus more on the bullpen, Wesneski feels like a solid choice to eat innings for a group that's already a bit gassed.