The waiting game has paid off for Jed Hoyer and the Cubs - with veteran reliever Hector Neris coming to Chicago on a one-year, $9 million deal that contains a team option for 2025. If the right-hander makes 60 appearances this year, though, that becomes a $9 million player option - with total incentives making this deal worth a potential $23.25 million.
Neris is coming off a dominant season with the Astros in which he made 71 appearances, working to a career-best 1.71 ERA (although a 3.83 FIP probably gives us a better idea what to expect from him as it's closer to in line with his 3.62 career FIP). But he brings a ton of swing-and-miss (11.2 K/9 over his 10-year career) and excells at limiting hard contact.
Hector Neris brings postseason, late-inning experience to Cubs bullpen
In 2023, Neris ranked in the 95th percentile in xBA, 92nd in average exit velocity and 97th in hard hit rate, per Baseball Savant. His strikeout rate, which has sat around 30 percent year-in and year-out for a decade, has allowed him to overcome a walk rate that has trended in the wrong direction in recent years.
Neris also brings ninth-inning experience to the Cubs from his time with Philadelphia, which could obviously be valuable not only in a mentorship sense, but if Alzolay regresses at all this year. His experience and versatility should gel nicely with Craig Counsell's bullpen management, deepening the relief mix in a dramatic way.
A World Series champion with Houston in 2022, Neris brings several year's worth of postseason experience with him, as well, which hopefully will be relevant this fall with the Cubs eyeing a return to the postseason. This deal could wind up being a steal for Chicago, who comes away with the top free agent reliever still on the board as January draws to a close.