Setting aside the reported Chang-Yong Lim signing, which really isn’t about 2013, the Chicago Cubs have been pretty active in trying to upgrade their bullpen for next season. After re-signing Shawn Camp, the Cubs brought in Japanese closer Kyuji Fujikawa, and then tried to sign ace Pirates setup man Jason Grilli, who ultimately returned to the Pirates.
But the Cubs are clearly set on adding another quality late-inning arm, as Jayson Stark reports they are one of many teams bidding on righty Mike Adams. Others in the mix include the Rangers, the Nationals, the Blue Jays, the Phillies, and the Brewers. Officials with those teams tell Stark that they tentatively expect Adams to make a decision in the next few days.
Adams, 34, was an absurdly dominant setup man for the Padres and Rangers from 2008 to 2011, sporting a 1.71 ERA and 0.902 WHIP over 242.2 innings during that stretch, coupled with a 9.9 K/9 and a 2.4 BB/9. Yeah, he was crazy good. He regressed substantially in 2012, with the K-rate falling, the BB-rate rising, and the ERA and WHIP hitting 3.27 and 1.395, respectively. Those aren’t terrible figures, though, and he’ll probably be seeking a two or three-year deal on his prior merits. He may not get it, for reasons addressed below.
Like Grilli before him, Adams would be a slightly odd fit on a team not expected to compete in 2013. The Cubs could be hoping to surprise to the upside in 2013, and a rock-solid bullpen could certainly help. Or, they could be looking for the flexibility to deal Carlos Marmol without hurting the back end of the pen too badly. And, of course, there is the ever-present specter of “flippable assets.” If Adams, for example, takes over the closer’s role from a traded Marmol, and dominates in the first half of 2013, who’s to say he couldn’t net a nice prospect in trade? Some may be sick of hearing that kind of thing, but it’s the reality right now.
But, there’s another piece of the Adams story that requires discussion: yes, he’s coming off of surgery. Late in September, Adams was shut down by the Rangers with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome – pain in the neck and shoulders that can affect a pitcher’s ability to properly grip the ball. He had surgery in early October, which he says was a big success. It sounds like he thinks he’ll be fine for Spring Training, but, obviously, it’s a consideration.
So maybe that’s the real reason for the pursuit here – the Cubs are trying to get a reclamation type on the cheap, another theme we’ve heard a lot about this offseason. Fine by me.