Whaddya know, another former Rays pitcher. The Cubs have agreed with righty reliever Steve Cishek on a deal that is reportedly for two years at an AAV of $6-7 million. The 31-year-old sidewinder had been getting a fair bit of interest from other teams and there’s some familiarity with Jim Hickey from his brief stint in Tampa following a July trade last season.
As you might imagine from his low release point, Cishek is a big-time sinker-baller and generates a lot of groundball contact. He has worked as a closer in the past, racking up 121 saves over parts of eight seasons, but has excelled as a setup man as well. He did have a few rough patches in Seattle and was actually replaced as the closer in 2016, but it was later revealed that he’d been dealing with two torn hip labrums.
Offseason surgery delayed Cishek’s 2017 debut and limited him to only 44.2 innings between Seattle and Tampa, though he closed the season with a strong stretch. The Cubs seem to have an affinity for funky deliveries, as we saw with Joe Smith a couple seasons back, so Cishek certainly fills the bill there.
While command has been an issue for Cishek in the past, he’s been under 3.0 BB/9 each of the last two seasons. Even better, he’s only allowed 25 home runs over 421.2 career innings, good for a measly 0.53 HR/9. A reliever who keeps the ball on the ground and inside the fence? Yes, please.
The Cubs now have a pair of new relievers who are very familiar with high-leverage situations, though Brandon Morrow is probably the clubhouse leader for the closer role at this point. Still, they could opt for a closer by committee in which Joe Maddon plays matchups to put his best relievers in the most important situations. Crazy thought, right?