The Chicago Cubs were–for the most part–quiet during the Winter Meetings. The much talked-about trade of Jeff Samardzija did not, or has not happened yet, and there were no multi-year deals handed out. However, back in the Chicago cold, the Cubs warmed up the bullpen with a nice signing in right-hander Jose Veras.
While Veras has bounced around the league the last few seasons, he is an above average arm for any bullpen. For the Cubs, an established reliever is a welcomed addition to a group that has struggled the last few seasons. Veras found some success as a closer in his time with the Houston Astros. Over the last three seasons he has logged over 60 innings each year with an ERA in the 3.00′s. Ideally, you would like to see the ERA lower, and he can also be prone to giving up the late-inning home run. On the plus side, he will miss some bats when on the mound.
Veras was signed to a one-year deal and figures to be one of the leading candidates to become the team’s closer come Opening Day. However, the ninth inning is not a lock just yet. I believe he will be in competition with Pedro Strop during Spring Training for the job. Strop, since joining the Cubs, made excellent strides in developing a closer’s mentality. One major highlight on his resume was a road game against the San Francisco Giants. He found himself pitching into a bases loaded, no-out jam, only to pitch his way out of that jam allowing no runs. It was a major statement for Strop’s growth and development.
It is the second reliever added by the Cubs this winter as Wesley Wright, also with Houston ties, is joining the fray as well. The tentative seven at the back-end for the Cubs figures to be Veras, Strop, Wright, James Russell, Kyuji Fujikawa, Blake Parker and Carlos Villanueva. On paper, the five right-handers and two lefties should improve the overall bottom line.
Nick Schaeflein is a Chicago Cubs writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ptchr2424 or add him to your network on Google.