In 2014, the Chicago Cubs may not be competing for a postseason birth, but one of the many things that they will have going for them this season is that they have a solidified closer in the form of Jose Veras. During the winter, a somewhat surprising signing saw Veras join the Cubs on a one-year, $4 million deal to anchor the Cubs’ bullpen. Veras comes to Chicago with closer experience, but what can be expected from the veteran during the 2014 season?
As the 25-man roster continues to be finalized, Veras has been tabbed as the closer by new manager Rick Renteria. Pedro Strop was also presumed to be considered for the job, but entering his first full season as a Cub, he will fill the eighth-inning set-up role. To at least start the season, his job will be to get the ball to Veras to close games out. Together, along with fellow newcomer Wesley Wright, they will look to turn around one of the bullpens in the league that has really struggled the last few seasons.
The one thing that has really bogged down the Cubs has been the blown save. Fans can only wonder what could have been, if Chicago were able to close out more game when leading after six innings. Veras, who had 21 saves between the Houston Astros and Detroit Tigers a season ago, will be the last line of defense to turn that trend around.
During Spring Training, Veras’ numbers have not exactly impressed thus far. In only eight innings, he has surrendered seven earned runs and three hit batsmen. Those are not encouraging numbers for a closer looking to make a statement. However, in Veras’ defense his work has come early on in games, and has yet to be put into a save situation. But according to Renteria, “He is not concerned, and Veras is ready to go come Opening Day.”
With the Cubs only projected to find the win column between 60-75 times, what can be expected from Veras in 2014? If healthy the save chances will be there all season long. Remember, he is coming to a team that saw Carlos Marmol agonizingly struggle for two seasons, and Kevin Gregg wonder into a 30-save campaign. Any form of significant progress will be welcomed by the staff and fan base.
The Cubs also figure to be in a good amount of close ballgames all season long, as the offense on paper does not figure to be one that will put up a ton of runs. They will have their share of breakout games, but success will stem from the rotation limiting the opposition, and being near the top in quality starts like a season ago. Look for Veras to have a strong season coming out of the Chicago bullpen and get close to the 40-save mark this season. In 2014, Veras has the potential to be a top-10 closer in the league, become a fantasy sleeper, earn a big pay day for 2015, and turn around the Cubs’ late inning woes.
Nick Schaeflein is a Chicago Cubs writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ptchr2424 or add him to your network on Google.