It was something of a joke during the offseason that, as MLB teams watched the late-inning dominance of the Royals mask their somewhat meh rotation, they were all going to head into the offseason going hog wild on relievers. As I said, it was something of a joke.
Today, the White Sox signed lefty Zach Duke to a three-year, $15 million contract after he posted a dominant season in the Brewers’ bullpen (2.45 ERA, 2.14 FIP, 2.09 xFIP over 58.2 innings). I say “a” dominant season, because, before that, Duke bounced around on minor league deals for a couple years after washing out as a starter. In other words, there’s not much of a track record on which to bet. Also, Duke turns 32 in April.
It’s increasingly good to know that the Cubs have solid in-house bullpen options in place, because, with this Duke deal, with the Koji Uehara deal (2/$18M), and with the crazy deals sought by top relievers David Robertson and Andrew Miller, it appears to be a poor year to go out-of-house to pick up a relief arm.
The Cubs are known to be looking for a lefty – though they were never connected to Duke – and might consider adding another late-inning arm. Seeing how things have gone so far, however, makes me feel even more strongly that they may opt to wait out the market until late in the offseason. If the right lefty or late-inning guy is still looking for a job, then great, go ahead and pounce. It’s a luxury the Cubs have, so they might as well take advantage.
Otherwise, it might be best to keep the band together, and then see if any of the guys who don’t make the rotation can shift into the pen effectively, and or see how a young guy like Armando Rivero integrates into the mix.