The next month figures to be a very busy time not only for the Chicago Cubs, but for several teams still looking to make impact moves ahead of spring training. On the heels of the Michael Busch trade and Shota Imanaga signing, there are still several areas Jed Hoyer is looking to upgrade before Opening Day, with one of the biggest being the bullpen.
At Cubs Convention, Hoyer spoke on the need to add to the relief corps - a group that was largely buoyed by a handful of primary contributors last season: Adbert Alzolay, Julian Merryweather, Michael Fulmer and Mark Leiter Jr. All four of those guys made 58 or more appearances in 2023, with no other reliever making more than 35.
"We’re certainly not done with our offseason by any stretch. We still want to add to the bullpen this offseason."- Jed Hoyer, via The Athletic
Depth will be key for first-year Cubs manager Craig Counsell, who has long been considered an elite mind when it comes to bullpen management. Of course, it didn't hurt that he had Josh Hader and Devin Williams in the mix, but his in-game decision-making is clearly a strong suit. Now, it's on Hoyer to go out and add to the pen so Counsell can do what he does best.
Cubs in on multiple relievers; trades for Josh Hader and Emmanuel Clase seem like long-shots for a variety of reasons
In his latest piece at The Athletic (subscription required), Sahadev Sharma says the bullpen is a top priority for the Cubs front office - and he singles out four specific relievers as guys to keep an eye on: Robert Stephenson, Ryne Stanek, Phil Maton and familiar face David Robertson, who thrived in a brief stint with Chicago in the first half of 2022.
A Hader signing never made a ton of sense for Chicago, even with Counsell's familiarity and the Cubs' need in the back end of the pen. The length and total dollars of the deal Hader's camp was looking for didn't fit with what Hoyer likes to do and, frankly, this team isn't just one shutdown reliever away from being a World Series contender.
One interesting note that stood out to me was in reference to Guardians closer and oft-rumored Cubs trade target Emmanuel Clase. While the fit is there and Carter Hawkins has an intimate familiarity with that organization from earlier in his career, Sharma notes that Chicago and Cleveland seem to evaluate talent very similarly, which could make lining up on a trade difficult.
Cody Bellinger, by far, remains the biggest name the Cubs are in on - but these bullpen additions will be key and could go a long way toward determining whether or not the team is playing baseball in October this fall.