Chicago Cubs Have One Massive Need They Need to Fill
The Chicago Cubs are off to a pretty good start through the first 18 games of the season. With an 11-7 record, the Cubs are playing with a lot of confidence. However, there is one missing ingredient to their playoff recipe. Spoiler alert, it is not calling up prospect Matt Mervis. Calling up their sixth-ranked prospect is definitely on the list, but it should not be number one.
The Cubs suffered a frustrating loss against the Los Angeles Dodgers Thursday night and it made one thing abundantly clear; they need another left-handed pitcher in the bullpen. Michael Fulmer was called on to pitch the ninth and struggled to shut down the Dodgers. If the Cubs had another lefty arm in the bullpen, he would have been on the mound instead of Fulmer. Chicago could have definitely used another left-handed pitcher in the friendly confines for this series at the least. Los Angeles hits just .195 against lefties this season, 51 points lower than their average against righties. In the game Thursday night, Brandon Hughes - the only lefty in the bullpen - threw two scoreless innings with four strikeouts.
Chicago's pitchers have a 1.54 WHIP against left-handed hitters this season. Against righties, that WHIP drops to 0.93. The North Siders need to add that second left-handed pitcher to the bullpen. The Arizona Diamondbacks recently let go of Madison Bumgarner. Do not worry Cubs fans, because he is not the answer we are looking for. There are plenty of other options out there. Some of those options may come from within the organization.
What are the Cubs internal options to fill the need?
Kyle Hendricks is nearing a comeback and this could be very good for the Cubs. He is obviously not left-handed, but when he comes back, he could push Drew Smyly to the bullpen. Smyly has been pitching well this season, but given the performances from Marcus Stroman, Justin Steele and Jameson Taillon, there are just not enough rotation spots for Smyly to stay a starter. Hayden Wesneski had a great outing in his last game and he is just not someone the Cubs want to push out of the rotation. This makes Smyly the odd man out, but that is not a bad thing. They could use Smyly in the same way they used Mike Montgomery during their 2016 world series run.
The Cubs also have some options in their minor league system, at least for the short term. One option is to promote Anthony Kay from triple-A Iowa. He is a reliever that is having a decent start to the season for the Iowa Cubs. Kay has 10 strikeouts in seven innings and an oBA of just .200. This season in Iowa, left-handed hitters are batting .182 off Kay. He may not be the long-term option, but he could fill a need until the Cubs find a more permanent option.
The Cubs have the talent and ability to make a playoff run. They have some holes to fill first, though. Bringing in left-handed bullpen depth should be one of the first things the Cubs address.