The Chicago Cubs were no strangers to bullpen struggles this season and that is one of the reasons why the team fell short of making the 2023 Major League Baseball post-season.
In recent years, the Cubs have shown the ability to rehabilitate veteran relievers into effective closers once again and one of the first examples of that was future Hall of Famer Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel struggled at the start of his tenure with the Cubs in 2020 but was able to return to his future Hall of Fame form and that led the team to deal the veteran at the 2021 Major League Baseball Trade Deadline to the Chicago White Sox.
Since the trade, Kimbrel has had up-and-down success but appeared to turn the corner once again this season with the Philadelphia Phillies. Kimbrel was a National League All-Star out of the Phillies' bullpen this season but his struggles have returned in the post-season.
Kimbrel was the losing pitcher for the Phillies in both Game 3 and Game 4 of their National League Championship series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Kimbrel entered a tie game against the Diamondbacks on Thursday in the ninth inning and proceeded to walk two hitters before ultimately serving up the walk-off single to Diamondbacks' second baseman Ketel Marte.
The struggles resumed for Kimbrel on Friday night after he entered the eighth inning with the Phillies up 5-3 before allowing a pinch-hit two-run home run to Diamondbacks' outfielder Alek Thomas. Kimbrel would also be tagged for the winning run and his second loss in consecutive games.
The struggles of Kimbrel should serve as a reminder for the Cubs that the bullpen has to be addressed this off-season. Admittedly, the Cubs' front office probably did not expect the team to be pushing for the post-season in 2023 and that is what likely led to their band-aid approach for the bullpen. With the team expecting to make the leap from good to great next season, that can't be the same approach this off-season.