373.0 innings. 425 strikeouts. 2.90 ERA. 5.6 WAR. All the smiles.
Since mid-2013, when he was acquired as part of the Jake Arrieta deal, Pedro Strop has been a mainstay at the back of the Chicago Cubs bullpen, and one of the team’s most successful relievers ever. Just three relievers in franchise history accumulated more WAR with the Cubs than Strop has (Lee Smith, Bruce Sutter, and Carlos Marmol), and only Smith and Sutter, together with Strop, managed to crack the 3.00 ERA mark with at least 220 innings.
That is all to say, Pedro Strop already holds a very special place in Chicago Cubs relief history. Whatever happens next.
But what does happen next?
The 34-year-old righty is scheduled to be a free agent this offseason, and, coming off an injury-riddled, velocity-declined, disappointing 2019 season, he’s not a lock to return to the team with whom his smile has become so associated. If there’s any team that is going to give him a shot to rest up and return to form next year – or figure out how to be effective again with reduced velocity – shouldn’t that team be the Cubs?
Pedro Strop, who's about to become a free agent, would be an asset for the next Cubs manager: "If I'm starting negotiations with the Cubs, it doesn't have to be that difficult…they know this is my house here." https://t.co/VoeGaoyN1J
— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) October 4, 2019
Good read from Mooney there, worth checking out. Strop has not only been a very effective reliever for the Cubs, but he’s also been an extremely important leader and clubhouse presence for the team – particularly the young, Latino players.
It’s clear that Strop hopes to be back with the Cubs – “I still need to meet with my agent and go through stuff, go through numbers. But if I’m starting negotiations with the Cubs, it doesn’t have to be that difficult, because they already know what I’m capable of when I’m right. And they know this is my house here.” – but obviously expectations will have to be tempered.
What is the reality on the market for a 34-year-old who suffered multiple hamstring injuries over a one year period, who saw his performance recede, and who saw his fastball velocity drop by nearly two MPH? I tend to think it is, at most, a very small one-year guarantee, and perhaps a team-friendly option thereafter in order to get that guarantee. It’s even possible that a split minor league deal with a decent big league rate is the best Strop will find.
The Cubs cannot afford to go into 2020 expecting that Strop will be a key part of the bullpen – there are already so many questions there – but it would be crazy not to bring him back on a modest deal if he’s open to it. I wouldn’t put it past him to adjust to his new velocity range and become a useful middle reliever, while also providing a quality veteran presence.