The Rundown: Cubs Leaning on In-House Bullpen Options, Financial Struggles of Prospects, Openers Are People Too

If I were a GM, March 19 would be my cutoff day to bring either Craig Kimbrel or Dallas Keuchel to camp. No way either would be ready to start the season, but with off days at the beginning of the season and a few early games likely cancelled due to inclement weather, it’s realistic to get them ready by games 10-15. It’s not looking good for either pitcher, though.

The Cubs could use Kimbrel for a lot of reasons, but they’re unwilling to spend any money right now and will continue to look for bullpen answers from within. Looking at all the teams in the Central Division, I’d choose any of the other closers ahead of Brandon Morrow, assuming all are healthy. The Cubs’ bullpen is just a bit above average as compared to the Cardinals and Brewers, and it would be a shame to see them lose a game to either team that came down to a battle of relievers. We all know the importance of one win.

Even the starters have suggested that Chicago could use some bullpen help. They are hoping to carry the load somewhat, at least for the first half of the season. Starters accounted for just 60.5 percent of the innings thrown by the pitching staff last year. Part of that is because Joe Maddon is often reluctant to let starters go through an opposing team’s batting order a third time. Improving efficiency would help, too. No Cubs starter threw 200 innings last year.

“I had games where I felt I couldn’t put guys away, which gets me to that seventh inning,” Jon Lester told Mark Gonzalez of the Chicago Tribune. “There were a lot of games when I had 90-plus pitches into the sixth, and then your spot comes up and you have to bow to the manager on that.

Still, Kimbrel is there for the taking. He would give the Cubs an elite closer while lengthening their bullpen and would allow Maddon to take chances with guys like Morrow and Pedro Strop earlier, rather than saving either to potentially close out a game. The Cubs could then be more flexible with Steve Cishek.

Perhaps one of Dakota Mekkes, Dillon Maples or James Norwood can develop into a lockdown relief option, though Mekkes and Norwood were cut over the weekend. That seems to be an awful lot to ask for a team contending for a championship.

Cubs News & Notes

Spring Training Notes

Minor league players want people to know the financial difficulties they face but are afraid to talk for fear of losing their jobs ($). Per Emily Waldon of The Athletic, most Triple-A players make less than $15,000 per year.

The Blue Jays have agreed to increase minor league salaries by 50 percent. That’s a good start.

Dan Clark is not a fan of Manny Machado and this is a rare occasion where I side with the Padres shortstop.

Phillies legend Mike Schmidt thinks Bryce Harper will exceed expectations this season and beyond.

Harper remains hitless in exhibition games.

The Rays have printed “Openers are People Too” t-shirts and I’ve got to get one.

The Yankees may be considering Gio González as a late free agent acquisition.

Extra Innings

For St. Patrick’s Day, strength and conditioning coach Tim Buss led the morning stretch covered in green body paint while wearing a denim speedo and bright orange wig.

Monday Walk Up Song

Real Gone Kid by Deacon Blue. A nice tribute to music legend Van Morrison from 1988.

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