Cubs' reluctance in free-agent market raises concerns for bullpen success in 2024

Despite admitting the shortcomings of his bullpen additions last season, Jed Hoyer does not appear to have learned a lesson.

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Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer has proved to be stubborn with his strategy as the top voice in a baseball organization.

That is not to say that Hoyer is wrong in his approach, after all, it's an approach that has got the Cubs to the door of contending within a season and a half of when they tore down their previous contention window at the MLB Trade Deadline in 2021.

But, as a team shifts from rebuilding to contending, there also has to be a shift in the ideology of the team's front office. It remains to be seen if Hoyer can make that shift but his latest minor-league signing may be an indicator that he can't.

On Monday, the Cubs signed left-handed relief pitcher Tom Pannone to a minor-league deal with an invite to Spring Training. Pannone appeared in one game with the Milwaukee Brewers this past season before being allowed to return to South Korea in order to play with the Kia Tigers.

Pannone posted a 4.48 ERA with the Tigers in 16 appearances (15 starts) last season. Pannone was the team's second minor-league signing this season that could be aimed toward addressing the Major League pitched staff. The team also signed Edwin Escobar earlier this season.

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with teams taking fliers on pitchers with the hope that they have something to offer. The issue when it comes to Hoyer is that he takes fliers on pitchers with the expectation that they will contribute at the Major League level. There is a difference between hope and expectation and that was the lesson that was learned with Hoyer's failed bullpen signings last season.

Hoyer admitted that his approach to addressing the team's bullpen needs last off-season may have been wrong. There was even speculation that Hoyer may move off his preference of not giving multi-year deals to free-agent relievers this off-season. But, despite an active free-agent market for relief pitchers, the Cubs have stayed out of the mix and it remains highly unlikely that the team will be involved in the market for Josh Hader.

It goes without saying that the Cubs need to add a legitimate veteran reliever to their bullpen this off-season. There is not a scenario that exists where the Cubs can be viewed as legitimate contenders entering the 2024 season if Hoyer is once again pinning the success of the bullpen on the hope that his lottery tickets cash out.

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