The 2019 Chicago Cubs are 1-4. That’s the record and we can’t change that. But if we’re being honest, it probably shouldn’t be that bad.
The offense has come out of the gate hot and currently sits at or near the top of every statistical leaderboard of consequence. And the rotation, for all their struggles, doesn’t actually strike me as a problem just yet overall. No, I think we all know what the issue is, because it’s something we were worried about all winter and spring: the bullpen.
No one expects any group of relievers to be perfect at all times, but blowing three late leads in the first five games of the season is pretty unbelievable. Had that group been clicking – or heck, passable – it’s not difficult to imagine 4-1 Cubs team. But the group they have is the group they have, and it doesn’t sound like that’s changing any time soon.
Today, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer jumped on 670 The Score and was asked (albeit coded-ly) about adding one . of the big unnamed free agent pitchers still on the market (i.e. Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel) and Hoyer was pretty clear that it wasn’t happening: “Our focus is entirely internal right now. We have guys with a long track record of success. Our focus has to be on getting (our) guys right. Our focus is not on what’s out there … it’s on what we have.”
Cool. Cool, cool, cool.
As Hoyer continued, he explained that there are guys in the bullpen with long track records of success, as well as arms on the IL and in Iowa who could come to help soon, which is true. But you’ll forgive me if that doesn’t make me confident in the immediate future.
Because, sure, I believe the injured pitchers (Brandon Morrow, Tony Barnette, and Xavier Cedeño) and some of those lively Iowa arms can and will help at some point this year, but in the meantime, the bullpen has already blown three games, and there are reasons to fear it will not naturally get better (this sort of stretch late in the season, after a half-year of good results is far easier to explain away). This could just be our reality.
Given the way last season ended – both the final results, and the tailing off of bullpen health/performance – I think criticism remains fair game, especially when there were so many better, safer options out there in free agency and trade available this winter (Kimbrel or otherwise). As Brett talked about this morning, these were risks the Cubs accepted when they constructed this bullpen.
Now, I understand that Kimbrel might not be ready until May, which coincides with when the Cubs should be getting back so many of their other arms, and I know some of the guys who’ve blown games are guys we’d be asked to trust regardless of other additions – I’m just saying none of that really makes me feel better. And in both cases, adding Kimbrel still makes the Cubs bullpen better. Probably no matter what. But it ain’t happening. Take the hint.
None of this is particularly surprising, given what we know about the Cubs’ budget this offseason. Still, it’s OK to be disappointed. Again. Our very worst fears showed up right away and there’s still no, dare I say it, urgency to fix it.