Even after the addition of Jesse Chavez – who was brilliant again today – the Chicago Cubs were considering their options in the bullpen. And even after the addition of Cole Hamels pushed a starting pitcher – Tyler Chatwood, it turns out – into the bullpen, there was little reason to believe the Cubs would suddenly view their bullpen picture as complete.
Considering the injuries to Brandon Morrow and Anthony Bass, the dramatic ineffectiveness of Brian Duensing, and the unreliability of Chatwood as a relief option, the Cubs could use another impactful reliever. As a matter of fact, I’m not even sure I listed the most important reason the Cubs still need to be in the market for a quality reliever: the starting rotation has been so abysmal that the Cubs simply have to add wherever they can. If your rotation is unreliable, then you might as well load up on as many quality relievers as you possibly can.
To that end, I was not surprised to see Theo Epstein tell Cubs.com that the team was “not necessarily” finished making trades. “We’re still out looking, and we’ll be there until the last minute before the Deadline,” Epstein said. “There’s only so many opportunities to get better, and it’s harder after July 31. We hope we’ve achieved stability and gotten better and still continue to look.”
You can expect the reliever rumors to continue for the Cubs, especially when there are still so many quality options out there and available.
And that includes from the very same team the Cubs have already traded with twice.
As Nick Cafardo writes, “The Cubs, who have also added Jesse Chavez, are still looking for a reliever. They were trying to compete for [Zach] Britton, but like the Red Sox didn’t have enough and were beaten out by the Yankees. The Cubs are now looking at [Jake] Diekman and [Keone] Kela.”
Diekman and Kela have been popping up in rumors all across baseball over the last two weeks, but this is the first time they’ve been explicitly tied to the Cubs. It makes sense, given the teams’ already extant discussions, and how that can help deals come together as organizations become more familiar with the others’ perspective on various prospects and players.
Diekman, 31, is a lefty who is a free agent after the season. When healthy, he’s posted solid – if unspectacular – numbers for the Rangers the last three years. This season, he has a 3.89 ERA and a 3.59 FIP, striking out 26.5% of the batters he faces (but walking 13.9%).
He’s not a LOOGY-type – he’s split-neutral for his career, and has actually been crushed by fellow lefties this year – so he’d be more of a “here’s another solid full-inning reliever” type. There’s nothing wrong with bringing in another guy like that, and it’s also always possible the Cubs believe there’s some pitch mix or mechanical tweak that could make him all the more effective.
Kela, unlike Diekman, is not a rental. He’s a 25-year-old righty who is controlled via arbitration through 2021, and has been closing for the Rangers. He’s quietly put up very strong numbers for the Rangers in the first four years of his career, with the exception of the 2016 season. This year, he sports a 3.28 ERA, a 2.85 FIP, with a 29.5% K rate and an 8.2% BB rate.
The price tag on a guy like Diekman would be small – he’s a decent, but unremarkable rental reliever. It would cost a prospect, but not one that kills your farm system. Kela, by contrast, would cost a really significant piece or two, unless I’m missing something about him. He seems to be the kind of reliever the Cubs would target a little less than other clubs out there who more desperately want controllable relievers, but then again, sometimes you just really like a guy and want to add him to a competitive club when he’s available. If that means you pay more for the controllable years, well, I mean, it’s not like it’s *bad* to acquire a guy for multiple years.
Also to keep in mind on both of these guys, just like with Chavez and Hamels: they have been pitching in front of one of the worst defense in baseball, at one of the most offense-friendly home ballparks. Just sayin’.