When the Chicago Cubs non-tendered lefty Wesley Wright earlier this month, it was something short of a huge surprise, but it did set up a lot of questions about the Cubs’ bullpen going forward. One of those questions was whether the Cubs would try to work out a lesser deal with Wright, who was generally successful in 2014, to bring him back.
Well, that ain’t happening, as Wright has reportedly agreed to a deal with the Baltimore Orioles. Best of luck to him.
The other questions about the left-handed side of the Cubs’ bullpen remain unanswered, and it’ll be interesting to see how the Cubs address them as the offseason goes on.
The free agent market is slim pickens when it comes to lefties, but there are some interesting guys, including Joe Thatcher and Tom Gorzelanny. But, after adding Jason Motte to the bullpen mix, the Cubs may be inclined to stick to internal lefty options and/or minor league free agents whom they can bring to Spring Training and see what’s what before committing a roster spot. I again wonder openly if that’s what the Cubs are hoping to get done with Craig Breslow, to whom they were recently connected. And, of course, there are always potential trades, though there haven’t been much in the way of specific rumors.
If the Cubs do stick with internal options, they’ve got Joe Ortiz and Zac Rosscup as 40-man options. Among the starters, the Cubs also have Tsuyoshi Wada, Felix Doubront, Travis Wood, Eric Jokisch, and Jon Lester (just kidding) as lefties. Among them, Wada and Doubront figure to be the best bullpen options, given Wada’s early-inning success last year and Doubront’s previous success as a reliever (a role, however, that he doesn’t seem to fancy – that’s what allegedly precipitated his trade to the Cubs in the first place).
The upper minors aren’t likely to provide much in the way of surprises, with Hunter Cervenka and Jeffry Antigua the only plausible lefty options, but they’d really have to be shockingly awesome in Spring Training to grab a job (and they’d probably need a rash of injuries ahead of them to even get a shot to shock).
The other route for the Cubs is the waiver wire, which will likely generate some interesting options over the coming months (just yesterday, the Rangers DFA’d two interesting relievers, Scott Barnes (a lefty) and Ben Rowen (a side-arming righty) – the point there being that if the Rangers have to dump these guys, each of whom look like interesting possible relievers, then lots of teams will be having to dump this caliber of pitcher over the coming months). You can’t plan on it, obviously, but it always seems like someone intriguing pops up as rosters get increasingly crunched. Of course, the Cubs’ roster is crunched, too.
So, all in all, I think the way the lefty situation shakes out for the Cubs is something like this: they’ll see what pops up on the waiver wire, and they’ll probably try to bring in a vet or two on minor league deals to compete in Spring Training. From there, anyone they bring in will compete with Ortiz, Rosscup, and guys who don’t make the rotation for a spot in the bullpen. Given the depth the Cubs have on the right-handed side there, it’ll be interesting to see if the Cubs go with one or two lefties, and if they go with seven or eight relievers. It’s tough to carry eight relievers – as we saw last year – if you want to have a competitive bench. Further, it’s tough to carry two lefties if you have a mere seven-man pen, and you have so many quality right-handed options.