After Jed Hoyer surprised us with the signing of Trey Mancini last night, the Chicago Cubs shifted their focus to the bullpen, targeting both Andrew Chafin and Matt Moore. Sahadev Sharma dropped a tidbit worth checking out; the link to that here.
Sharma notes Hoyer's comments on not being entirely done adding in free agency but that, indeed, the bones of the team were in place. As he continued, it appeared the decision was to add another bat or bullpen relief. Later on, the Cubs inked Trey Mancini. The Cubs will now get their wish to navigate both; with Mancini's AAV set for $7.0MM, there's still room to add a veteran reliever at the end of the bullpen.
Chafin is a man that needs little introduction to the fans of Wrigleyville. In 2021, he put himself on a career pace at the time, filling 8th-inning duties with a 2.06 ERA over 39.1 frames. Due to the teardown of the team at the trade deadline, he was shipped off to the Oakland, Athletics signing with the Detroit Tigers thereafter in the winter, heading into the 2022 campaign.
Now, a free agent once more, the Cubs have been connected. For a team that desperately needs a veteran lefty presence, Chafin is a fan favorite representing a perfect fit. Stretching back the last two seasons, he has recorded a 2.26 ERA over his previous 126.0 IP. There's not much to need to sell anybody on. Chafin has been the real deal for a while now, and there won't be one fan that will be upset if the Sheriff dons Cubbie Blue again.
Chicago Cubs: Team also eyeing breakout lefty, Matt Moore
Where Chafin has had solid production throughout his career, Moore is circled as a target who has an incredible season in 2022. He recorded a minuscule 1.95 ERA over 74 innings for the year. An eleven-year veteran, Moore had never excelled at levels such as these. Before the 2022 campaign, he had an ERA of 4.64 dating back to 2011.
So, what changed for him, and what can be attributed to his newfound success? For starters, Moore has been transitioned to a relief role at this point in his career. 2022 marked the first season he didn't start a single game. He had reached 150 IP in four seasons as a starter but has yet to find the desired results to keep his role. His best season came ten years ago when he notched a 17-4 record with a 3.29 ERA. Not being left on the mound too long certainly helped, but changing up his pitch mix provided improvement, as well.
In 2022, Moore completely abandoned his cutter, at which he threw at an 8.8% clip the year prior. He dropped his fastball from 56.7% to just 45.0%. However, the big difference for Moore was his curveball usage spiking from 15.2% to 38.2% this past season. He still sprinkles in his change-up around 16.8% of the time but found success keeping hitters guessing primarily between the curve and fastball. It also didn't hurt that he added three mph of velocity on the curve, from 80.8 mph to 83.6, while the heater saw an uptick from 92.5 mph on average in '21 to 94 mph in '22.
74 innings is a decent chunk to sustain any period of success, especially at that level. Moore has turned a late corner and figured something out; he is a top target the Cubs' brass will consider. That will be up to Hoyer and general manager Carter Hawkins to decide. If they don't believe fully in the newfound success, there is nothing wrong with turning back to the old faithful in the form of Andrew Chafin. After Jed Hoyer stated, they were still working on "a couple of things.", it isn't hard to connect the dots to the bullpen once one of those "couple of things" turned out to be Trey Mancini late last night. Look for rumors to continue sparking up in the coming days.