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Even after signing Japanese reliever Kyuji Fujikawa to a two-year deal (pending physical), the Chicago Cubs aren’t done trying to improve a bullpen that was comically bad at times last year.

According to Bruce Levine, the Cubs are talking with a number of relievers’ agents today, and Bruce mentions former Pirates late-inning reliever Jason Grilli, specifically.

I read earlier this offseason that Grilli was receiving interest from teams as a closer, which would certainly fall into the Cubs’ presumed plans to (1) move Carlos Marmol, and then (2) create new value by making a non-closer into a closer. Fujikawa would seem to partially fill that hole, but as Jed Hoyer said just a couple days ago, the Cubs would be happy to have a number of options in the pen who can close.

As for Grilli, he’s 36 and coming off a career year (each of which, to me, screams red flag when it comes to a middle reliever – but I digress). He put up a 2.91 ERA and 1.142 WHIP over 58.2 innings while striking out 13.8(!) per 9. He was arguably one of the best relievers in baseball last year, and has really reinvented himself in the last two years in Pittsburgh after suffering a severe knee injury before the 2010 season.

So, hey, you know his stuff works in the NL Central, at least.

Grilli is certainly an interesting short-term option, particularly as someone who could take over the closer’s job, perform well, and perhaps become a flippable asset. On the other hand, given his extremely strong performance (relatively out of nowhere – before 2011, he hadn’t been a modestly successful reliever since 2008), I could see him being a fairly expensive bullpen addition, even without a long-standing track record of success.

I suppose it would all depend on the contract with a guy like Grilli, but I’m thinking he’s going to get the kind of deal that, if given by the Cubs, would harken back to the days of Scott Eyre and Bobby Howry – a shiny late-inning reliever, coming off a career year or two, in his 30s, and given a multi-year deal that ends up biting the Cubs in the ass.

… which is a completely unfair thing to say, given that every player is different. Still, I’m wary of big money deals for middle relievers, who, often by definition, have found their way into middle relief because they weren’t good enough/hearty enough to start, and weren’t dominant enough to be closers.

I’m down with the Cubs improving the bullpen, and I’m down with upside plays like Fujikawa, who come on reasonable deals. We’ll just see what happens.

At present, outside of James Russell and Shawn Camp (and Fujikawa when he finally signs), the Cubs have no certainties in the pen. There are a number of young arms who will compete for a bullpen spot in the Spring, but the Cubs certainly won’t be displacing anyone by signing a quality veteran arm. So there’s that.

  • DarthHater

    I increasingly suspect that Levine is assman22. ;-)

    • MichiganGoat

      No YOU are the resident ass around here ;)

  • MichiganGoat

    I just thought Scott Eyre and Bob Howry and threw up in my mouth, I’m fine with getting good bullpen arms but not if it requires a large or long contract. Any idea what contract type he is seeking?

    • MichiganGoat

      Damn you Brett now I’m hashing through all those Hendry middle reliever we signed, gulp is it to early to drink- NO! Cheers Founders Dirty Bastard remove these thought remove these thoughts.

    • DarthHater

      When a ruminant throws up into its mouth, isn’t that just a normal meal?

      • MichiganGoat

        Eat my chud buddy ;)

        • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

          Did you mean cud or this:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C.H.U.D.

          • MichiganGoat

            Oops where’s that edit button – btw CHUD is a fun b-movie creature horror flick

  • Kyle

    Want want want. If we are trying to improve in 2013 with potentially flippable players that don’t require long-term contracts, putting together an awesome bullpen is a logical way to do it.

    • Chris

      But Jason Grilli? Coming off a career year? At age 36? His SO/BB ration was ridiculous in 2012, but nowhere near that the rest of his career. I suppose it’s only money, but this one has red flags all over it for me.

  • Barry

    He keeps getting better with age…very tough to hit. He makes Marmol even more expendable. Sign him!

  • Jason “Thundermug”

    Time to ask the ? of the Day Why are we looking into trading Marmol if we are looking for bullpen help

    • kmr1453

      because Marmol is an unreliable headcase

    • DarthHater

      Same reason we are looking to trade Soriano and sign outfield help?

  • Rizzo 44

    I hope if they trade Soriano this week they can pick up Hamilton in a deal for 4-6 years. We need a CF, RF, LF and 3B and more pitching SP and RP. I feel we only need a LF if we trade Soriano. I think we need to trade DeJesus, Soriano, Garza, Marmol, and maybe Barney.

    • skidrow

      No to Hamilton.

  • Myles

    His agent is Gary Sheffield. That is an awesome factoid.

  • Spencer

    Grilli was a beast last year. Racked up holds like crazy. Good fantasy baseball pitcher, so I’m in.

  • cheryl

    As bad as the cubs pen was last year if they get rid of Marmol for a decent prospect won’t they need two pitchers for the pen? And are these rumors about the cubs’ interest in Bourn, Keppinger or another starting pitcher for real? That’s a lot to look for at the Winter meetings.

  • http://www.sportsdanny.com Dan

    Not saying it will happen the same, but these are the type of moves that Hoyer made when he was GM of the Padres/when they lost the division on the last day of the season…they know they may not be able to hit so they are getting all the pitching they can with the hope that lightning strikes twice – if not, all tradeable commodities…

  • caleb

    Could be a bold new strategy for baseball success. Spend all your money on creating a Super-Bullpen; all closers and badasses. Then have just enough offense to get 1 or 2 runs, starting pitching that only needs to go 4 innings, and win 100 games 1-0, 2-1, etc.

    I like it.

    • Myles

      Fungible middle relief: the new market efficiency

    • Matt

      2013: Cubs win World Series on strength of 14 man bullpen!
      2014: Cubs have 13 pitchers on DL with Tommy John surgery!

      It was SO worth it.

  • ssckelley

    Grilli’s numbers last year were crazy good, a little to good tbh compared to his career. Can they pin point an explanation for this or is this a by product of pitching for a small market team?

  • Tyron

    What do u guys think about tradeing soriono
    An marmol ,what type of guys could we get back??!

  • Ben

    I would hope they are only signing him to flip him. Signing a 36 year old, coming off his best season, offers us little upside. The fact that other teams might offer him more as a “closer” makes this worse.

    To be fair, I’m all for adding players to our team that are undervalued, at any position. But adding an aging RP with virtually no upside at market value doesn’t seem like a smart move. Not to mention this would, assuming it’s not the only move made this week, cost someone a 40 man spot.

  • MightyBear

    No to Grilli – too many walks

  • Matt Murton

    Jason Grabow, never forget

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      John Grabow.

      Sounds like you’ve forgotten …

      • Boogens

        Forgotten? Seems like all of you have forgotten the first over-paid middle reliever that Hendry brought in that started that madness… the rag-arm lefty from the Braves, Mike Remlinger.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          I usually exclude Remlinger from those lists because he was actually pretty good in his two full years with the Cubs (119 ERA+, 129 ERA+). Not quite what was hoped for, but still good.

  • Curt

    howry ,eyre,and grabow that should make you think twice about grilli. unless you get him cheap

    • Cedlandrum

      I would love to think twice about Bob Howry. People forget how good he was in 06&07. He was a disaster in 08 but he was quite good early. The moral of the story is that you don’t sign those guys to 3 year deals, but 2 would be fine.

      Scott Eyre had one good year, one ok year and then fell on his face. So again 2 years is the way to go.

      Mike Remlinger was good in year one and two… bad in year 3.

  • cubfanincardinalland

    Grabow. The Cubs actually paid him 4.8 million bucks in 2011. I mean come on. And people wonder why jobs were lost in the front office?

  • rbreeze

    You can hear the tires being kicked all the way up here from Nashville. If the price is right, then lets get Grilli and add a capable arm to the bullpen. I know we are a couple years away from contending but I always thought that Ichiro Suzuki would have been great in RF for the Cubs. Too bad we are not ready yet because he would probably sign a one or two year deal if the Cubs were contenders.
    In the meantime, nothing would surprise me this week.

  • TeddyBallGame17

    I agree with being skeptical about Grilli, but this is your 2nd time in the past few days referring to Eyre as a mistake. Had a good year in ’06 and once he left the Cubs he won a World Series with the phillies and had a career year his last season before retiring. He may not have fully lived up to his contract, but to compare him to guys like Howry, Kevin Gregg, Grabow, etc.

  • MikeCubs

    Don’t forget Karchner (who we traded Jon Garland to the White Sox for) and Jeff Fassero. Those 2 single handedly cost us a shot at the playoffs.

  • MichiganGoat

    Nooooo stop reminding me of ghosts of middle relievers of past, too much pain too much frustration… Quick givw me another Founders Dirty Bastard I must forget again must forget.

  • Justin

    I would take Marmol in a heartbeat compared if we got someone like Howry. That was the worst thing when watching Eyre and Howry pitch.

  • Believe in 2015

    Per Danny Knobler at CBS sports,

    More broadcasting news: Jim Deshaies leaving Astros TV to replace Bob Brenly on Cubs TV (Brenly went to Arizona).

    • Serious Cubs Fan

      Very excited to have Deshaies abord. Have high expectations for him

      • Spriggs

        Crap. Hope it isn’t true

        • Cedlandrum

          say more.

  • ruby2626

    Score was talking Cubs still interested in Brandon McCarthy? Anyone hear any updates on him?

  • Fastball

    All those guys who where on the greyhound from Iowa last year need to stay in Iowa this year for the most part None of them were ready fro prime time. Let the new pitching instructor work with them and see what happens. Get these new guys in solid roles pitching out of the pen right from the start of the season.

  • ferrets_bueller

    Grilli Bear.

    Its a sign.

  • #1lahairfan

    How much would he cost?

  • Anonnifan

    Here is what a powerful bullpen does for a team. First, it makes it easier to bring in free agent pitching, because pitchers don’t feel like they are going to put in a solid effort only to watch a win given away by the bullpen. Second it increases the # of wins for your starting pitchers thus increasing their mid-season trade value. We’d all like to believe that its all decided by scouting and advanced metrics, but even savvy observers tend to devalue a good ERA if it isn’t accompanied by a healthy winning percentage. Building a solid bullpen fits right in with the Cubs sign and flip mentality. Around the trade deadline everyone wants arms, and wants ones that have proven they can win. You could make an argument that good hitting also increases the number of wins for a team, but it is much, much more expensive to add bats than it is to add relievers.

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