When it comes to the Cubs bullpen, a lot is left unsettled heading into the bullpen - and I mean that in all the best ways. Chicago will bring a ton of arms eyeing a spot in the pen into camp next month and during Cactus League play, we - and the organization - will be assessing their performances as David Ross looks to round out his staff prior to Opening Day.
The uncertainty surrounding Kyle Hendricks and when he'll be back to 100 percent will be a major factor in this whole thing, as well. Guys like Adrian Sampson, Caleb Kilian or Javier Assad - all of whom made starts for Chicago in 2022 and are likely bullpen candidates in 2023 - could slide into the rotation to fill the void should the veteran right-hander fail to be ready for Opening Day.
Cubs have a ton of relief depth, but who will close is unclear
The list goes on and on when it comes to potential bullpen options: Sampson, Assad and Kilian are joined by the likes of Brad Boxberger, Hayden Wesneski, Adbert Alzolay, Brandon Hughes, Keegan Thompson, Rowan Wick, Michael Rucker, Manuel Rodriguez and Mark Leiter, Jr - among others. But the bigger question that needs answering, regardless of what the mix looks like, is, "Who closes games for this team in April?"
Last year, it was veteran David Robertson who came out of camp with the ninth-inning job. His Cubs tenure was cut short, though, when Jed Hoyer traded him to the eventual NL pennant-winning Phillies at the trade deadline. Down the stretch, Wick, Rodriguez and Hughes all saw time nailing down saves, but I don't think any of them have an inside track to the job heading into 2023.
At one point in his career, Wick looked like he'd be the guy, but that hasn't come to pass. Boxberger is a former All-Star closer, but he hasn't notched double-digit saves since back in 2018. I'd be here for letting Alzolay go and shove for one inning to close out ballgames, but I suspect the Cubs will lean on he and Thompson as their primary multi-inning weapons.
Two guys recovering from Tommy John surgery - Brad Wieck and Codi Heuer - could eventually seize the ninth-inning job, but neither will be ready before, at the earliest, late June/early July. That does little to settle the question facing the Cubs coming out of camp.
There isn't a clear answer here - at least not yet. As is the case almost every spring, there are battles to keep an eye on and seeing who emerges with the closer's job out of camp will be near the top of my watch list this year.