The Rundown: Cubs Need Bullpen Help, Offense Slumping, Kimbrel Free of Draft Pick Compensation, MLB Draft Day Here

Eleven blown saves by Cubs’ relievers through 57 games. I cannot help but remain focused on that troubling stat. It’s this year’s equivalent of scoring zero or one run in 40 games. The sweep by the Cardinals in St. Louis aside, Chicago’s real problem lies not in its slumping offense, but the turn of bad events that usually occurs when games are left to be won or lost by the bullpen.

Craig Kimbrel averaged just 4.25 blown saves per season from 2011-18 and is now available without draft pick penalties attached. Though I don’t have a source, nor do I have any inside information, I fully expect the Cubs to sign him. Hell, I’ve been away from baseball completely while the Cubs slid out of first place by going 2-8 over their past 10 games, including the just concluded 1-5 road trip.

Still, I’ve got to believe that Tom Ricketts would rather not be remembered as the guy who refused to budge over a few extra dollars from his bottomless bank account to remedy his team’s biggest weakness. I mean, is one championship sufficient when another is truly within reach?

Back in March, CI correspondent Bill Quinn laid out the possibility that the Cubs could sign Kimbrel on or after June 3, the day the closer is released from the restrictions that have left him available in free agency to this point. In addition to bolstering a milquetoast bullpen, the lights-out reliever with 868 strikeouts in 533 2/3 career innings pitched would boost the confidence of the team and its fans. Do you ever feel fully relaxed when Joe Maddon pulls a starter with his team in the lead?

There is a downside, however. Kimbrel had a 5.01 ERA in 31 outings in the second half of last season, including the playoffs. Some scouts felt his lack of command was the result of a shortened 2018 spring. It’s now been seven months and one week since he last faced a major league hitter in a meaningful situation.

Kimbrel also wants a multi-year deal, according to reports, and he’s very much in demand, with the Phillies, Braves, Twins, and at least one AL East team reportedly showing interest. I still believe there is a trade out there for a proven closer — Ken Giles comes to mind — but signing Kimbrel is much cleaner and still leaves the Cubs with assets to fill other needs at the deadline.

At least the team has done its due diligence. The match is obvious, as is the need. Answers coming soon, I’m sure.

Cubs News & Notes

How About That!

Today is a huge day for Rays as they have four of the top 61 picks in an “immensely important” draft for the organization. 

The Mariners have traded Jay Bruce to the Phillies and appear to be in full sell-off mode now.

The Dodgers are the hottest team in baseball and are on pace for a 111-win season. Los Angeles has won five consecutive games and nine of the past 10 and holds a nine-game lead in the National League West. They play 26 of their next 32 games against division opponents.

The Yankees continue to show interest in free agent starter Dallas Keuchel.

Sunday’s Three Stars

  1. Max Scherzer – The Nats ace allowed just one run and three hits with a season-high 15 strikeouts over eight masterful innings as Washington defeated the Reds 4-1 in Cincinnati.
  2. Lucas Giolito – The 24-year-old right-hander struck out nine and walked none while improving to 6-0 with a 1.03 ERA in his last six starts in a 2-0 win over the Indians. Giolito hasn’t lost in almost two months.
  3. Jorge Alfaro – The Miami backstop had a home run, a double, and 4 RBI as the Marlins took the rubber match in their series with the Padres.

On Deck

Believe it or not, I couldn’t sleep last night knowing I was going to be writing this morning’s column. Two weeks away from something you love will do that to you. I missed it and I’ve dearly missed the readers and comments. I am glad my schedule has normalized so I can go back to posting daily.

Extra Innings

One mock draft has the Cubs taking J.J. Goss, a right-handed pitcher out of Cypress Ranch HS in Texas. He can reach mid-90’s with his fastball with a wipeout slider to boot and oozes projection. Goss tossed a perfect game on April 6 in a 12-0 win over Cypress Park HS, needing just 71 pitches.

They Said It

  • “Right now, the Christmas gift is gonna be Pedro Strop very soon. The moment we get Stropy back, that lengthens the whole bullpen again.” – Joe Maddon
  • “[Alzolay] had a high percentage of strikes with the curve and a high percentage of swing and miss with the curve, which was encouraging. Just to see him go out and compete with his mix of pitches that he has … was a real positive. So it was great to see.” – Jason McLeod
  • “We have to give ourselves a better chance, more opportunities than we’re giving ourselves. That’s the ebb and flow of the season. We’re grinding right now as a unit. We have to get back on track.” – Anthony Rizzo

Monday Walk Up Song

One Step at a Time by Mike Zito and Anders Osborne. I still haven’t decided on a theme for this month so you get a PSA today. If you know or love someone with a drinking problem you should understand that alcoholism is not a choice, but a disease. A person who suffers with any addiction should be treated as such. It is tragic and heart-crushing to watch the distress and destruction of a loved one due to the effects of alcohol dependence.

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