The Remaining Free Agent Reliever Pool Actually Still Offers a Lot of Quality Options for the Cubs

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The Remaining Free Agent Reliever Pool Actually Still Offers a Lot of Quality Options for the Cubs

Chicago Cubs

The yet-unacquired bat gets most of the attention right now, but I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that the Chicago Cubs could definitely still stand to add a reliever or two in free agency. The Cubs do have a glut of young, upside arms available for the bullpen, but as Jed Hoyer pointed out, you still want to have some veterans down there, both to help the younger guys, but also just to stabilize things as best you can.

Also, the Cubs are just so good at selecting and maximizing relievers that you’d want to see them go after a couple arms anyway. There’s probably disproportionate value there.

With Brad Boxberger in the fold, the Cubs have one new sure-fire-big-league reliever added. They also have a handful of minor league deal options like Roenis Elias, Eric Stout, and Nick Neidert. It’s not like the Cubs have done nothing here. But historically, there is usually a lot more volume in both categories.

Against that backdrop, I took a closer look at the list of still-available reliever options in free agency, and man, there are a LOT of intriguing options left. Probably isn’t surprising, then, that the Cubs are slow-playing it a bit.

MLB Trade Rumors put together a set of reliever groupings, wondering which free agents had the best years – by various metrics – in 2022. When Michael Fulmer, who has been attached to the Cubs and whom we really like, shows up 10th on the list of top available free agent relievers by ERA, that should tell you that there are a lot of good arms available:

1. Matt Moore (LHP), 1.95
2. Alex Young (LHP), 2.08
3. Matt Wisler (RHP), 2.23
4. Wily Peralta (RHP), 2.72
5. Brad Hand (LHP), 2.80
6. Andrew Chafin (LHP), 2.83
7. David Phelps (RHP), 2.87
8. Ralph Garza Jr. (RHP), 3.34
9. Jackson Stephens (RHP), 3.38
10. Michael Fulmer (RHP), 3.39

ERA is not a perfect metric for an exercise like this, but it does get you started. (Note that Stephens just re-signed with Atlanta this week.)

In that group there, especially given that Brandon Hughes is the only sure-fire, locked-in lefty in the Cubs’ bullpen right, you love to see so many lefties still available. I think you know Chafin and Hand well by now (that … was not intended to be a joke), but Alex Young and Matt Moore each had surprisingly great seasons in 2022, and could be compelling options if you buy their emergence.

And, yes, that’s THAT Matt Moore, who was quietly absurd for the Rangers this past season. He’s 33, but it was the first season when he was fully converted to a relief role, making no starts. He was able to drop his cutter, throw his curveball twice as often as he ever has, and increase his fastball velocity a couple clicks. I’m very interested. He’s going to have an argument for a significant multi-year deal, though, and the Cubs generally don’t go that way for relievers. They might not get back in on old friend Andrew Chafin for the same reason.

MLBTR also looked at strikeout rate, groundball rate, and FIP, among other things to bring in some additional names, and it’s worth perusing (like, did you realize Luke Weaver, who is somehow still only 29, was fully converted to the bullpen this past year and put up some incredible peripherals (with bad results, though)). I thought the group of strikeout rate minus walk rate was pretty interesting, where you see some familiar names like Darren O’Day, Chasen Shreve, Craig Stammen, and Steve Cishek showing up. Some of those types, you’d love to have around on a minor league deal if you could pull it off.


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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.