With five weeks left before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, there’s still plenty of time for the Cubs to make roster moves, but if their role is to wait out the rest of the market and then feed on the scraps thereafter, they’re gonna need the rest of the market to really start moving, especially on the bullpen front.
To that end, the Cubs may have a number of relief targets in mind that they’d like to add, but since they don’t figure to pay at the top of the market – and/or are still trying to move salary around – there’s probably a fair number of ok-that-guy-isn’t-too-bad relievers that the Cubs are in on. We recently heard about Greg Holland as a plausible fit in that mold, and Ken Rosenthal offered another this morning.
The Cubs like old friend Adam Warren, says Rosenthal, even as they are not currently in a position to spend lustily to sign him. Perhaps if Warren is not finding an attractive multiyear deal in the coming weeks, he could fall to the Cubs for a bargain. These are weird sentences to be typing about a not-super-expensive reliever at a time when the Cubs have obvious bullpen needs.
Anyway, Warren is a freaking awesome reliever and quality swingman … when he’s pitching for the New York Yankees. The 31-year-old righty, you’ll recall, was the Cubs’ primary return in the Starlin Castro trade a few years ago. In his time with the Cubs, he posted a 5.91 ERA, mostly as a reliever, with peripherals to match. It was ugly. He was then sent back to the Yankees at mid-season as part of the Aroldis Chapman trade, and he resumed being really good again immediately. He was fantastic the next year and a half with the Yankees – as he does – when they traded him at midseason to the Mariners. Suddenly his peripherals tanked, and his performance was only barely better than it was with the Cubs.
So, I mean, maybe it’s just a fluke that Warren did not succeed (in a small sample) with the Cubs and the then-in-place pitching infrastructure. And maybe it’s just a fluke that Warren did not succeed (in a small sample) with the Mariners after a midseason trade to the West Coast. And maybe the Yankees version of Warren isn’t the Yankees version at all – it’s just the large sample Warren. I could see it. The flip side is that some guys, for whatever reason, are just a lot more comfortable in certain places with certain organizations, and the margins between a meh reliever and a good reliever in this sport are razor thin.
I tend to think you’d have to take his performance out of New York into strong consideration when meting out a contract offer. It’s a tough one, because if you knew for sure he’d be the large-sample-Yankees guy, Warren would arguably merit something like a three-year, $24-27 million contract. But those blips – those two big blips – would have to hold you back (unless you were the Yankees, I suppose).
As with Holland, I’d be perfectly fine with the Cubs signing Warren late in the offseason to a reasonable deal, and letting him take a spot in the bullpen out of the gate. If the contract is manageable enough, you can see how he performs early, and coordinate his role accordingly. The Cubs have the need in the bullpen for capable arms, if nothing else.
Consider the current group of 40-man relievers, with Brandon Morrow likely starting the season on the disabled list following November debridement surgery:
- Pedro Strop (33, season ended with a hamstring injury)
- Carl Edwards Jr. (27, erratic season in performance, had a shoulder injury and a forearm injury)
- Steve Cishek (32, wore down late in the year after heavy usage)
- Mike Montgomery (29, might be needed in the rotation, was quietly fairly poor as a reliever last year)
- Brandon Kintzler (34, was terrible with the Cubs, is an aging high-contact pitcher)
- Tyler Chatwood (29, lost all semblance of control last year)
- Brian Duensing (35, was terrible and injured last year)
- Randy Rosario (24, scary peripherals all year)
- Kyle Ryan (27, was good at AAA last year but did not earn call-up)
- Dillon Maples (26, so much talent but hasn’t shown big league command)
- James Norwood (25, good stuff but not established)
- Rowan Wick (26, decent minor league production but not established)
How is this not being viewed as a crisis situation by the Cubs, regardless of the budget?