The Chicago Cubs have a need in their bullpen this off-season and comments from President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer would seem to suggest that the team will spend more on relievers this off-season than they have in the past.
No, it still would seem unlikely that the Cubs target the top of the relief market and sign free agent Josh Hader but an option such as Robert Stephenson may be in play.
Jon Morosi of MLB Network reported on Monday that the Cubs are among the teams that have expressed interest in Stephenson this off-season.
During the 2023 season, Stephenson posted a 5.14 ERA with the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first two months of the season. Stephenson was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays and was phenomenal during the remainder of the season with the Rays. In 42 appearances with the Rays last season, Stephenson posted a 2.35 ERA and 0.68 WHIP.
Stephenson is the exact type of reliever that the Cubs need to be targeting this off-season for their bullpen. Whether in their starting rotation or their bullpen. the Cubs lack power arms that have the ability to miss bats.
Stephenson would address that need in the bullpen as he struck out nearly 43% of the batters he faced with the Rays last season with a fastball that averaged 97 mph.
Stephenson would be an ideal addition to a Cubs' bullpen that has a solid foundation in place with Adbert Alzolay, Michael Leiter Jr, and Julian Merryweather. Injuries limited the availability of each of those three pitchers during the final month of the regular season and that is when the Cubs' bullpen construction came into question. With the Cubs expecting to contend in 2024, they need to have legitimate answers in the bullpen from the start and Stephenson would be a step in the right direction.