Adbert Alzolay Wants to Be As Flexible As Possible to Help the Cubs Be Aggressive in the Offseason

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Adbert Alzolay Wants to Be As Flexible As Possible to Help the Cubs Be Aggressive in the Offseason

Chicago Cubs

We talk a lot about how important it is to have extreme pitching depth and versatile arms if you want to compete at the highest level. The Cubs are very fortunate to now have upwards of 10 arms that *COULD* start for them next year, even if you want many of them to serve as depth at Triple-A and/or in the bullpen at various points during the year.

But just having the guys in your organization isn’t quite enough to actually maximize their value and production. You have to have them on board with what their role might be – particularly the depth guys – and put them in a position to succeed in coordination with the rest of the roster. If they are going to be the best they can be for your team, they have to really buy in to the idea that the best way they can contribute right now might not be the role they’d envisioned for themselves as they were climbing the minor league ladder.

To that end, I really liked the way Adrian Sampson talked about a good team’s need for 10 starters, and clearly understands just how critically important depth starters can be. That, after all, may wind up his role in 2023, swinging in and out of the bullpen, up and down from Triple-A Iowa. It’s not a knock on him. It’s an acknowledgement of how much you need in a given season, and how versatility is key.

And to THAT end, I really appreciated the way Adbert Alzolay talked about his own role. The 27-year-old righty missed most of the season with a lat injury, and only just returned to the big leagues, pitching in a multi-inning relief role. It’s possible the Cubs may decide to keep him in that role going forward, and it would be understandable if Alzolay was disappointed after a career of working toward being a starter in the big leagues.

But that’s not how Alzolay talks about his future. Instead, he’s thinking pretty much exclusively about the team. He’ll fill whatever role helps the team win, and helps the team improve.

“We’re building something. We’re trying to win. So for me if my role is best out of the bullpen, being a long guy, being a guy that can throw in the 8th or close a game or whatever, I feel like I have the weapons to do that,” Alzolay said when he returned to the Cubs this month. “I feel like there is a lot more options there and that allows the team to go and be aggressive during the offseason.”

Of course Alzolay would be a starter if he had his choice. Every pitcher who comes up as a starter would. But to have the maturity to understand that starting might not be your highest and best role, and might not present the most value to the team? And to further understand that your own role flexibility can help the Cubs add an impact starting pitcher to a spot you might otherwise occupy? That’s impressive humility and team-centric thinking.

It may wind up the case that none of guys like Alzolay, Sampson, Keegan Thompson, or Hayden Wesneski have a spot in the Opening Day rotation. But if the Cubs handle things right, those pitchers will understand that (1) not being in the rotation on day one is not a knock on their ability, (2) it doesn’t mean the rotation won’t change dramatically throughout the year, and (3) they can still make a huge impact on the success of the 2023 team in the bullpen or as starting depth.

A final note on Alzolay, specifically: since he is out of minor league options, he will have to make the Opening Day roster or be subjected to waivers. So if he isn’t in the rotation, and if he’s healthy, you can already count on him being in that Opening Day bullpen.

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.