Turning the Corner on Bullpen Contributions, Velazquez, Cardinals, Marlins, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Turning the Corner on Bullpen Contributions, Velazquez, Cardinals, Marlins, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

The kids have a snow day today, which is lovely for them, but it means AUDITORY CHAOS around the house. Quiet, they are not.

  • Andy Martinez writes at Marquee about the Cubs’ bullpen construction model, and how it is evolving as more young guys come up to the big leagues. For the last ten years, the Cubs have had tremendous success in two primary groups of relievers: true reclamation projects (either super cheap or minor league deal), and undervalued solid veterans (guys like Jeremy Jeffress, David Robertson, Chris Martin, Mychal Givens, Andrew Chafin, etc.). You don’t want to lose that organizational skill – clearly, the Cubs have a little something when it comes to building a successful bullpen out of those types – but the reality is that you’d still rather have more and more young guys coming up through your system. They are cheaper and they optionable, so you can have more of them.
  • Hoyer spoke to Martinez on that point, and how he hopes to see the team turning the corner on that:

“I think when you look at the cost at some of the players we were able to do that on, it was — I don’t wanna say low-risk — but low stakes as far as what we were paying those guys and I do think the buy-low reliever market, so to speak, has been a lot higher than in the past,” Hoyer said. “I think that it’s made that job difficult, but all that said, really we have to be able to develop our own relievers in house and I love the offseason where I don’t have to sign anybody to be candid with you.

“I think that means we have a ton of arms and go with what we have internally. It’s a place you love to have efficiency.”

  • You want the ABILITY to target certain relievers in free agency if you love them, but you don’t want to feel like you absolutely have to add multiple relievers every single year. (And you also want to still be trying to unearth reclamation gems – you just won’t have as many big league innings available with which to prove those guys out.)
  • I’d say that corner turn is here, by the way. Consider that for YEARS the Cubs had literally zero guys coming up internally to contribute out of the bullpen, and constantly had to trade real talent for relief arms at midseason. Now consider that, in 2022, all the following ENTIRELY home-grown pitchers made an appearance in relief for the Cubs: Brandon Hughes, Ethan Roberts, Brendon Little, Erich Uelmen, Manny Rodriguez, Matt Swarmer, Jeremiah Estrada, Javier Assad, Michael Rucker, Adbert Alzolay, Keegan Thompson, and Scott Effross. (That doesn’t even include guys who were acquired in trade or waiver claim or minor league deal and subsequently developed/re-worked by the Cubs!)
  • There are more coming this year, too. We could see relief debuts by guys like Ben Leeper, Danis Correa, Cam Sanders, Cayne Ueckert, Zac Leigh, Hunter Bigge, Riley Martin, Sheldon Reed, and many more. Again, these are just the SOLELY home-grown relievers. I would not be surprised if, by the end of 2023, the vast majority of bullpen innings were covered by home-grown Cubs (and probably 90+% by guys who were not traditional free agent signings).
  • Workout video szn:
  • By the way, Velazquez was already surprisingly fast for a bigger dude! 73rd percentile in MLB last year. The Cubs don’t have to carry Velazquez on their bench to open the season (still doesn’t have a lot of time at Triple-A), but if he can still handle CF and wreck lefties? That’s a nice piece.
  • Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado both show up among the biggest xwOBA overperformers in 2022 in this FanGraphs piece about guys being overdrafted in fantasy. That doesn’t mean you can say they’re going to take a huge step back this year, though when guys in their 30s post MVP-level campaigns, it’s generally more likely they step back than step forward. That’s just natural statistical regression (to say nothing of aging). We’ve talked about this topic before on the Cardinals, and I’m not super optimistic their offense, overall, actually pulls way back, because even if those two regress, you could see progression for a number of young players PLUS the addition of Willson Contreras PLUS the arrival of Jordan Walker.
  • There were rumors flying yesterday that the Marlins were going to be put up for sale, but it was quickly squashed, to the disappointment of Marlins fans everywhere:
  • With both the Angels and Nationals not finding the right (level of) bidder out there, it’s no surprise that right now might not be the best time for the Marlins to try to sell either.
  • Not to be lost in the Hall of Fame voting:
  • Lee is going to be considered the best position player to come to the States out of Korea since … maybe ever? He will be posted, so there is the extra posting fee associated with signing him, but he’ll be free to negotiate with all teams.

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.