After inking Hector Neris to a $9 million deal, bringing back old friend Carl Edwards Jr., and trading for Yency Almonte alongside Michael Busch, it seemed that the Chicago Cubs were done adding relief help. With Neris, they finally gained a proper late-inning out-getter, and Edwards Jr. and Almonte added to a glut of depth the team has been accruing for the bullpen. On top of that, they have made no shortage of other minor league signings this offseason, including a glut of recent pick-ups from Driveline's Pro Day.
The depth reportedly won't stop Jed Hoyer from continuing to peruse the market, however. FanSided's Robert Murray wrote on Monday that another reliever signing wasn't out of the picture for the Cubs. On Tuesday, he reaffirmed that notion in an episode of The Baseball Insiders, adding with full confidence that the team was still shopping for another arm.
As the adage goes, you can never have enough pitching. The Cubs do lack, however, a lot of surefire relief pieces. Adbert Alzolay is almost certainly the closer with Neris and Julian Merryweather locked in as setup men. Mark Leiter Jr., Javier Assad, Drew Smyly, and Luke Little also seem likely to earn jobs, but it wouldn't hurt to have another experienced, quality veteran in the Opening Day 'pen. Much of the team's depth is also optionable, offering extra flexibility with how the team uses them.
One such reliever that seems likely is Ryne Stanek, another former Astros bullpen fixture. The Cubs were recently connected to Stanek alongside the Red Sox in a report by Bob Nightengale, and it's not hard to see why. He'd add some much-needed velocity to the team and, while he's coming off a down year (4.09 ERA, 4.60 FIP), he's shown he can be a truly elite reliever as recently as 2022 (1.15 ERA, 3.02 FIP).
While the big names of Josh Hader, Robert Stephenson, and Matt Moore are no longer available, Stanek is part of a solid remaining class that also features interesting names like Wandy Peralta, Jake Diekman, Liam Hendriks, and Ryan Brasier. The trade market, too, has options. Kenley Jansen is available in a trade with the Red Sox, or, if the price was right and the Cubs went big, they could go for the big fish they've been connected to for much of the offseason - Emmanuel Clase.
Jed Hoyer won't repeat the mistakes of the 2023 Cubs bullpen
Whatever moves do or don't happen in the bullpen from now until Spring Training, it's clear that Hoyer has learned his lesson from 2023. He acknowledged that the bullpen's collapse late last year was on him for relying too heavily on a limited number of reclamation pieces instead of more reliable veterans. The lack of quality depth led to the trio of Alzolay, Merryweather, and Leiter Jr. being overburdened, leading to disaster down the stretch.
The goal now is to lengthen the relief corps and provide bullpen whiz Craig Counsell with plenty of weapons to play around with. Other teams are still lurking of course - the Cardinals, Yankees, Mets, and more still would like to add relief help as well. There's plenty of offseason to go, though, and enough options to go around if the Cubs want to add more certainty to the back end.