Yesterday was a particularly rumor-filled day, as we had not one, but two Lukewarm Stoves, and a direct report connecting the Chicago Cubs to Orioles reliever Zach Britton. However, Britton probably will not be the only reliever the Cubs are connected to in the next two weeks.
Indeed, in a report at USA Today, Bob Nightengale counted the Cubs among the six teams most interested in Marlins reliever David Phelps.
According to Nightengale, the Marlins are decidedly “open for business” this July, and that apparently includes veteran reliever Phelps. Among the interested teams, Nightengale includes the Yankees, Red Sox, Brewers, Cubs, Rockies, and Rangers as showing the most interest.
Phelps, 30, is a former Yankees’ reliever who broke out big time for the Marlins last season (2.28 ERA, 2.80 FIP, 1.9 fWAR). He’s not having quite as much success here in 2017 (3.45 ERA, 3.69 FIP), but there’s still some stuff to like.
For example, while his strikeout rate has fallen a bit from its dominant 32.4% height last season, it’s still a pretty strong 25.9%. His walk rate, in the meantime, has held steady, as has his 46.7% ground ball rate. In addition, and unlike last season, Phelps’ BABIP has risen well above his career average (and even further over last season’s mark), while his strand rate has dropped considerably.
Now, you can’t force good luck, but as far as taking in the big picture goes, you can see why team’s will be interested in a formerly dominant closer who’s still getting good results, especially when some peripherals suggest he could potentially be due for some positive regression.
Phelps is far from perfect, but he’s certainly a useable reliever (and is particularly adept against right-handers, to boot).
As far as his contract goes, Phelps is under control via arbitration for the next year and a half (around $2 million more due this season and probably somewhere around $5-$7M due next year), which means the Cubs would be – once again – acquiring a piece that could help them out both this and next season. If they can match up well with the Marlins, there’s no reason this couldn’t be something that makes plenty of sense.
It’s too early to go any deeper down the rabbit hole than we already are, but it’s fair to say the Cubs are not done dealing yet, and are a fair bet to add an arm to the bullpen at some point.
Fortunately, the bullpen is in a pretty good place, so the Cubs won’t ever have to deal from a position of weakness. Because of that, the Cubs might be ultra patient on this front and wait until the very end of the month to pull the trigger on a trade.
We’ll see. Maybe it will give Brett more to discuss during the BN Blogathon from July 30-31, currently slated for 24 straight hours, but oh-so-close to raising enough for Make-A-Wish to bump that to 34 hours. Full details here!