Last season, the Chicago Cubs bullpen was one of the worst in baseball, especially in the first half of the season. Somehow, though, between then and now, president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer have managed to turn the bullpen into a strength of the ballclub. Through trades and by players simply getting healthier, the bullpen for the Cubs actually looks like it should be a strength in the coming years.
For this season, the club added lefty Wesley Wright and potential closer Jose Veras. They will also get back flamethrower Arodys Vizcaino who hasn’t pitched in two years due to Tommy John surgery and a setback related to the surgery. Last season, Pedro Strop was acquired from the Orioles and pitched extremely effectively for the North Siders and he will be with the club all season this time around.
Wright and Veras were both signed to one-year deals and while it’s possible they will be back beyond 2014, the real future of the bullpen lies with Vizcaino and Strop.
Vizcaino has touched triple-digits with his fastball and averages 96 mph on that pitch. He’s already had major elbow surgery and he’s only 23 years old so chances are that he will be a reliever for the foreseeable future. Strop isn’t particularly young, but he likely has five solid seasons left in him if he can stay healthy. There’s a very good chance that this duo could be the set-up man and closer combination for many years to come.
Strop will likely be the set-up man to Veras this season with Vizcaino gaining his footing as a middle reliever until he gets more comfortable. Past this season though, these two are going to be the go-to guys in the pen.
The Cubs have surrounded these two with some other solid pieces such as James Russell who has really transitioned well to the bullpen and become one of the more effective lefties in baseball. Young Blake Parker also came into his own last season and will look to continue that in 2014.
If the Cubs can continue making subtle moves to add to the bullpen and sustain its performance then they should be set in that regard in 2014 and beyond. The “beyond” part will fall on the talented shoulders of Vizcaino and Strop.