Well, the Cubs have got their new closer. In fact, the whole back end of 2016’s bullpen looks to be pretty well set at this point. And when you add in this offseason’s first splash, the signing of Brian Duensing, you’ve got a pretty good start. But because bullpens are fickle, the Cubs are going to need to keep stockpiling arms like a doomsday prepper in order to set themselves up for the marathon of the season. Add in the expectation of playing more than 162 games for the third straight year and redundancy becomes that much more important.
Jed Hoyer said as much Wednesday afternoon in the wake of trading for Wade Davis. He’s also said they’d be looking for value, whether that’s guys with a little tread on the tires or those who could use a change of scenery and a second shot. Having options left wouldn’t hurt, either. I don’t believe Hoyer was saying that the Cubs would necessarily target that profile, just that those were among the types of pitchers the organizational radar would ping.
Given the possible losses of Travis Wood (free agency) and Mike Montgomery (rotation), lefties should be prioritized. Cost will be a factor as well, though not in the sense that they’re only going to be looking for veteran-minimum guys. So let’s take a look at the list I’ve put together of those pitchers who seem to fit the profile.
Though the 32-year-old hasn’t been linked to the Cubs, at least that I’ve seen, Logan is the kind of veteran lefty who fits what they need. His career OPS-against when facing lefty hitters is merely nice (.669), but it’s appreciably better than what he’s allowed to righties (.854). When we narrow the sample a little, however, the numbers look a lot better.
While Logan has generally faced more lefties than righties each season, his usage was relatively even from 2011-14. During that time, he had a .694/.860 OPS-against split. Since being used in even more of a LOOGY role over the past couple seasons, he’s posted a .530 OPS against lefties (.842 vs. righties). And that’s while pitching for the Rockies.
Logan is also adept at missing bats, racking up at least 11.06 K/9 in every season since 2012. Of course, his 3.95 BB/9 is evidence that he’s able to miss the strike zone regularly as well. A lot of that comes from righties, who he walks about 50% more often (4.85 vs. 3.23 BB/9) than lefties. You can look across the board and the numbers tell the same story. Used pretty strictly against like-handed hitters, Logan could be a nice Weapon X. And at a contract that should approach two years and $12 million, he won’t break the bank.
This would be a homecoming opportunity of sorts for Blevins, who was actually selected by the Cubs in the 17th round of the 2004 draft. Shortly after being promoted to AA Tennessee in 2007, Blevins and catcher Rob Bowen were traded to Oakland for Jason Kendall. The lanky (6-6, 175 lbs) lefty debuted with the A’s later that season and has racked up 425 appearances in parts of 10 seasons since.
Blevins has actually faced more right-handed hitters (826) than left-handed (726), despite significantly better performance against the latter. His name makes him sound like an old man, but the 33-year-old southpaw seems to have found the fountain of youth in New York. His 11.14 K/9 in 2016 was a career high and was paired with BB/9 (3.21) and HR/9 (0.86) numbers that were within one one-hundredth of a point of his career averages.
Working primarily with a sinker/slider/curve mix, Blevins will throw a change in for good measure. Though his fastball doesn’t average 90 mph, it must look like Thor’s heater when compared to a slow curve that comes in at around 71 mph. The bender is Blevins’ bread and butter, saving 2.8 runs to tie him with Joe Blanton for 16th among all relievers in 2016 (we’re talking on the curve only, there).
After playing for $2.4 million in 2015 and $4 million last season, I can’t see giving Blevins anything more than $4-6 million AAV for a year or two. Maybe a little more based on what we’re seeing with the reliever market.
This is a high risk, high reward kind of deal that you make hoping Holland returns to pre-TJS form. The Cubs are said to be at the forefront of the market on this one, but they’re definitely not alone. Interestingly enough, trading for Holland’s former teammate, Davis, may actually have increased the Cubs’ appetite for a project that is expected to cost in the neighborhood of $18-20 million over two years.
The 31-year-old has yet to regain the mid-90’s velocity that made him such a feared closer over the course of his Royals, and there’s no assurance that he ever will. There’s also the matter of a pretty serious dropoff in performance prior to his surgery in 2015. But, man, the potential…
If the price was a little lower, I’d be all over this. Of course, it’s not my money or my decision and I think the Cubs will continue to check in on Holland.
He’s not a big name, he recently turned 37, and he hasn’t really been linked to the Cubs, but Ziegler does check a couple boxes and merits a look or two. He’s a pretty extreme ground-ball pitcher (66.3%), which plays perfectly with Chicago’s stellar defense. And he’s also got that funky sidewinding delivery the Cubs seem to be enamored of, at least if Joe Smith is any indication.
You’re not getting electric stuff or a guy who misses a lot of bats in Ziegler, but he’s a tenured pro who holds righties to a .559 OPS and keeps the ball in the ballpark (only 23 HR allowed in 9 seasons). But with salary estimates in the $7-8 million AAV range for two or three years, he might also be a bit too costly for the Cubs at this point. If he’s willing to take the lower end of those figures, though, it could work.
I’ve stuck with free agents to this point, so I figured it was time to branch out just a bit. Doolittle is 30 years old and is on an incredibly club-friendly contract through 2018 with two more very reasonable club option years after that. If exercised, he’ll cost only $19.5 million over the next four seasons. Going after him would be a no-brainer if that’s all they had to pay, but the real cost for the Cubs would come in what they’d have to give up to get him.
And they’d have to give up a lot to get a lefty who averages 10.45 strikeouts and only 1.75 walks per 9 innings and who can handle both right- and left-handed hitters. Then again, injuries have limited his production over the past couple seasons and might make the acquisition cost more palatable.
As for what it would take to pry the inaptly named reliever loose from the team that traded the Cubs Addison Russell and more for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, I can’t really speculate. Part of that is because I don’t really want to, but more of it is because I’m not sure what the A’s need or want. Not likely they’ll do anything on this front, though it’s maybe something to keep on the back burner.
It’s not the least bit sexy and probably only happens if none of the other teams reportedly in the hunt for Wood’s services offer him the chance to start. Still, the Cubs have remained in contact with their multi-talented lefty and would certainly be open to bringing him back at the right price.
Not much you don’t already know about his production, though I do think Wood needs to be used in a LOOGY role out of the pen. That said, I think he’ll get the opportunity to start with an NL team that values what he brings as a hitter. There are just too many options out there for Wood to return to Chicago.
Speaking of options, the Cubs have several beyond those listed here. These guys just happen to be the ones that make the most sense to me as I sit here typing this. Given my druthers, I’d love to see Logan in a Cubs uniform, though my desire is based primarily in the enjoyment I derive from saying his name. I like to take my voice up an octave or so, employ an obnoxious twang, and really hold onto the “oooo” for a bit. Boooooooone Logan!
Tell me you wouldn’t want a chorus of those cheers rising from the Wrigley faithful next season. You know what, it doesn’t sound as cool when I put it like that. Anyway, who do you want the Cubs to go after? What name(s) would you add to the list? Any guys here you’d steer clear of?