The Cubs have had a busy offseason, signing seven players to big league free agent deals. Most of the attention has been on the position player side, with Dansby Swanson, Cody Bellinger, Trey Mancini, Tucker Barnhart and Eric Hosmer added to the lineup. Chicago also signed Jameson Taillon to a four-year contract to fortify the rotation.
They’ve been rather quiet with regards to the bullpen, however. Chicago inked Brad Boxberger to a modest $2.8MM guarantee in December. They’ve claimed hard-throwing Julian Merryweather off waivers from the Blue Jays. Otherwise, it’s been minor league deals to backfill a relief corps that saw the departures of David Robertson, Chris Martin and Mychal Givens at last year’s trade deadline.
It seems an addition to the later innings could be on the horizon. Patrick Mooney of the Athletic writes the organization is hopeful of bringing in another reliever before pitchers and catchers hold their first spring workouts next week. It isn’t clear which players are under consideration or the specific odds of Chicago pushing a deal across the finish line, though it’s notable the front office doesn’t appear to be done with Spring Training near.
A left-handed addition would be an ideal fit on paper. Chicago has just one southpaw reliever, Brandon Hughes, on the 40-man roster. He had a solid rookie season and should be in the MLB bullpen, though there’s room for another addition. Non-roster invitees Ryan Borucki, Eric Stout, Anthony Kay and Roenis Elías currently stand as the top options to join Hughes if the front office wants to give David Ross a second southpaw.
Last month, Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic listed the Cubs among a third of the league that was exploring the market for left-handed bullpen help. That subset of free agency has been bizarrely quiet since Taylor Rogers signed a three-year deal with the Giants shortly after Christmas. Andrew Chafin, Matt Moore and Will Smith are among the top remaining free agents at any position, while former stars Zack Britton and Brad Hand are available beyond that trio.
Of course, the Cubs don’t have to look exclusively at the left-handed market — even if that is the stronger group overall. Chicago could certainly accommodate a right-hander to join Boxberger, Adbert Alzolay and perhaps Merryweather or Rowan Wick in the middle to late innings. Michael Fulmer, Jeff Hoffman and Corey Knebel are among a number of still-unsigned options from the right side.