Chicago Cubs News: Jed Hoyer takes responsibility for the club's bullpen woes
The Chicago Cubs have a bullpen problem. It's something we haven't had to utter for the past few years with the pitch lab turning guys like Ryan Tepera, Andrew Chafin, David Robertson, and Chris Martin back into bona fide studs. While it usually takes some time for everything to straighten out with a veteran relief core, we're nearing June and everything is off the rails.
Before Tuesday's game, the Cubs bullpen sported a 4.50 ERA as a collective with a 1.295 WHIP, good for seventh worst in all of baseball. The struggles have been widespread of late, even hitting guys who found success last year like Keegan Thompson (4.22 ERA). Where the Cubs have especially failed compared to last year is with the veterans. Brad Boxberger (5.52 ERA) and Michael Fulmer (7.58 ERA) have been unplayable for them so far. They're also still trying to determine who can play in the closer role with nobody stepping up to claim the spot.
It's hard to lay all the blame at one doorstep. Nobody can fully take responsibility for seemingly every arm falling apart at once. Cubs President Jed Hoyer, however, told reporters before last night's game that it's on him for the failure to bring in veterans who could get the job done.
Hoyer's managed to cobble together excellent bullpens with spare parts the last few years as the organization has identified guys that they feel they can tinker with. Part of the risk is that if you miss or if there aren't established relievers with recent success brought in for the back end, things can go south fast. Boxberger and Fulmer have been complete misses, leaving all the pressure on the homegrown arms to perform. At least adding spending a bit more on someone like Andrew Chafin, for example, could've given the team someone more solidified for the back end. It makes David Ross's job much harder without a firmly proven arm who can handle high-leverage spots.
Jed Hoyer's ready to pull more levers to help fix the Cubs bullpen.
With all that said, it's also hard to crucify him for this failure when it's worked so often in the past. Fulmer's conversion into a reliever seemed to be a success before they signed him and, even now, his peripherals aren't terrible with elite fastball spin and hard-hit prevention along with solid whiff and strikeout rates. Boxberger, too, has enjoyed recent success. There's a world where those signings could've worked. Not only that, but the Cubs were hoping for better results out of homegrown arms like Thompson and Brandon Hughes, the latter of whom has been derailed by a knee injury.
The Cubs are already starting to make moves to fix their bullpen mess too. As Hoyer noted, there are some powerful arms down on the farm that are getting more looks as relievers like Ryan Jensen, Luke Little, and Cam Sanders. Daniel Palencia also recently underwent the conversion and impressed the Cubs so much that they called him up to Triple-A. Any of these guys could soon join the big league relief corps as the need arises.
Considering the Cubs have a ton of starting pitching depth, Hoyer likely feels more comfortable than ever having these guys become relievers. Perhaps that'll happen to both Caleb Killian and Hayden Wesneski at some point this year if only temporarily to get them used to big-league pitching in shorter bursts a la Justin Steel. Whatever happens, change needs to come quickly if the team wants any chance of staying afloat.