Cubs' big Hector Neris problem could go from bad to worse if this happens

A clause in the veteran's contract could keep him around past 2024, regardless of it he sorts out his struggles or not.
Chicago Cubs v Seattle Mariners
Chicago Cubs v Seattle Mariners / Alika Jenner/GettyImages

Hector Neris has been a disaster for the Chicago Cubs in the early going. Now, we're not even 10% of the way through the 2024 season (not that you'd know it by scrolling Twitter) and there's time for the veteran to re-discover what made him such a reliable bullpen arm in recent years. But, for now, it's near-impossible to have any real degree of faith in him.

His latest antics, which involved walking the bases loaded against the bottom of the Mariners order on Sunday, did little to instill confidence in the Cubs' biggest bullpen addition this winter. With six walks in five appearances, it's been all bad for Neris. He can't find the zone to save his life and, when he does, opponents are squaring him up far more often than in the past.

Right now, though, as our friends at Bleacher Nation pointed out, there's not a whole lot the Cubs can do besides hope he can work through it. The 'circle of trust' consists of Mark Leiter Jr. and Adbert Alzolay and the two guys who could, at least in theory, reinforce the pen in Ben Brown and Javier Assad, are serving as stopgap replacements in the rotation with Jameson Taillon and Justin Steele sidelined.

Cubs could wind up in a corner if Hector Neris makes 60 appearances

So just how could this get worse? Simple. Craig Counsell keeps turning to Neris throughout the season, whether it be in the setup role he's currently occupying or even as a middle-inning mop-up arm, and he hits 60 appearances. Why? Because at that point, the club option for 2025 becomes a player option, all but guaranteeing the right-hander would return for a second season, even if he repe

Now, one would hope if Neris struggles all summer long and just can't figure it out, the Cubs front office would take steps to make sure this doesn't happen - even if it means cutting the veteran and eating the rest of his 2024 salary. But if he's streaky and goes from hot to cold, it's totally feasible he finishes the season on the 26-man roster and hits 60 appearances (which he's currently on pace to do), thus controlling his own fate heading into the offseason.

Again, it's way too soon to say Neris is going to be bad all season long (although the metrics suggest he's taken some steps in the wrong direction, especially in terms of velocity). He was due for regression regardless, but if he keeps heading down this road and ends up wiggling onto the payroll in 2025, that would be particularly painful to see.