4 relievers that could emerge as the Chicago Cubs Closer
By Eric Rubin
The Chicago Cubs bullpen may not be the strongest in the middle of the pack, but the back end has a lot of potential. For opening day against the Brewers, the Cubbies brought in Keegan Thompson, Brad Boxberger, and Michael Fulmer out of the bullpen once Marcus Stroman's day was over. All 3 looked fantastic, as only 1 hit was allowed once Stroman was pulled, and that was in the 9th inning off of Fulmer. The Cubs have options as to who their closer is. Do they want the veterans of Fulmer and Boxberger to be that man? Or will they stick to the younger route and go with Thompson, Adbert Alzolay, or Brandon Hughes once he is off the IL?
The Cubbies really don't have a closer. It is really just a mix of decent relief pitchers who have had some save opportunities throughout their careers. Despite opening day not being a save opportunity, the 9th-inning pitcher was Michael Fulmer. As this is Fulmer's first year with the Cubs, he was previously a starter and reliever for the Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins. Throughout his 6-year career, Fulmer has 17 saves, 14 of which in 2021 with the Tigers. Fulmer will be in the bullpen this season, but with his career 3.89 ERA, is that the ideal choice for closer?
1. Brad Boxberger
The next possible option is Brad Boxberger. Another newcomer on the team, Boxberger made his debut with the Cubs on opening day as well. Boxberger is the veteran on the pitching staff, as this season marks his 12th season. Throughout his career, Boxberger has always been a reliever, but only a closer twice, in 2015 with 41 saves, the most in the American League that season. The second time he has been a closer was in 2018, with 32 saves. Other than that, Boxberger's command has been a struggle, as he has a career WHIP of 1.265, not an ideal number for a closer.
2. Keegan Thompson
Keegan Thompson is a solid all-around pitcher. He is someone who can start for an emergency and someone who can be out of the pen and stay consistent. Last season, Thompson started 17 games for the Cubs but was later moved to the bullpen, greatly benefiting the struggling pen. Thompson is in his 3rd year in the majors, where he has just 2 saves in his career. Maybe one day Thompson could be the closer for the team, but as of now, he is someone that may seem too valuable for a weaker bullpen to be the closer.