The Chicago Cubs have already added significantly to the bullpen this offseason, especially considering the trade for Wade Davis and the expected free agent signing of Koji Uehara (there are also Brian Duensing and Caleb Smith).
But it appears they might not be done yet:
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 12, 2016
As Jon Morosi reports on Twitter, the Chicago Cubs may be working on a trade for the 29-year-old Tigers’ left-hander Justin Wilson.
Wilson, who was previously with the Pirates and Yankees, just completed a 58.2 innings for Detroit in 2016 for his second consecutive 1.0+ fWAR season (which is a good benchmark for a reliever). Although his 4.14 ERA might seem a bit high, his peripherals are more than encouraging: 3.18 FIP (21st in the AL), 3.24 xFIP (14th in the AL) – he had a solidly above average 25.9% strikeout rate and 6.8% walk rate.
If it weren’t for the unusually high BABIP (.340 in 2016, .293 for his career), unusually low strand rate (70.8% in 2016, 75.5% for his career), and unusually high HR/FB ratio (12.2% in 2016, 8.0% for his career) I suspect his results would have looked a lot better – much like they did in 2015, for example. In 61.0 innings that year for the Yankees, Wilson had a 3.10 ERA and 2.69 FIP (1.5 fWAR).
If the Cubs are really considering adding another lefty to the pen, that might tell you quite a bit about their intentions for Mike Montgomery. With Caleb Smith and Brian Duensing available as options, and with Koji Uehara a reverse split guy, adding another lefty, especially one of Wilson’s quality, would likely indicate the rotation is indeed in Montgomery’s future.
[Brett: It’s worth noting, though, that Wilson is split-neutral – even leaning reverse split – for his career, and, although he does throw lefty, he’s more of a full inning guy than a LOOGY type. (But, then, so is Montgomery – so, adding another arm of almost any variety does further suggest Montgomery to the rotation is becoming a stronger and stronger possibility.)]
Wilson, for what it’s worth, is under control for two more seasons via arbitration. He made just $1.5 million in 2016, but is projected to get a healthy raise to $2.7 million in 2017.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
For now, we know that the Cubs may be interested in adding one more arm to the bullpen picture, and that arm may come in the form of left-hander Justin Wilson. We’ll keep on eye on this one, and dig deeper if there proves to be more worth exploring.