The Chicago Cubs provided injury updates on several pitchers including Michael Fulmer, who will reportedly miss the entire 2024 season after undergoing UCL revision surgery.
Fulmer is slated to reach free agency in November since he only signed a one-year deal with the Cubs last offseason. It was a roller coaster year for the 30-year-old, as he was deemed the most viable candidate to handle ninth-inning duties when the season began. But it became pretty clear that Fulmer didn't have the stuff for this role and he posted an ugly 9.23 ERA in the first half of the season. There were times in June and July when Fulmer looked sharp, but his production faltered later on and he went down with a forearm strain in August.
In the same vein, Brad Boxberger is slated to begin a throwing program in November after suffering from season-long forearm issues. The 35-year-old veteran only tossed 20 innings in 2023 with a 4.95 ERA and he wasn't as impactful as expected. Boxberger will also be a free agent this winter and I think he and Fulmer should be moved on. There is always an abundance of relievers available each year and simply put, Fulmer and Boxberger failed to have significant impacts on the bullpen this year.
I would like the Cubs to look at arms like Matt Moore, Reynaldo Lopez, or Jordan Hicks as low-cost options for next year. With plenty of bullpen depth and money likely going to position player contracts this offseason, I do not think the Cubs will make a run at high-end relievers like Josh Hader or Craig Kimbrel.
Speaking of the bullpen depth, Nick Burdi, Brandon Hughes, and Ethan Roberts are all expected to have normal offseasons. All three men spent significant portions of the season on the injured list and only threw 16.2 innings combined.
Burdi was called up in May and flashed good velocity before being sidelined after an appendectomy. Hughes suffered from a knee injury all year after being a significant contributor in 2022. Roberts spent the entire season recovering from Tommy John surgery and did not throw a pitch in the majors. All three of these guys could step into huge roles next year alongside Adbert Alzolay, Jose Cuas, Mark Leiter Jr., and Julian Merryweather.
Not to mention Daniel Palencia, Keegan Thompson, and Luke Little will be competing for bullpen jobs. Even as things stand now before any free-agent deals, the Cubs have a lot of options for the bullpen which is never a bad thing.