The bullpen for the Chicago Cubs has been very good so far in this young season. Young fire-ballers Pedro Strop, Justin Grimm and Hector Rondon have led the way, not allowing a run in a combined 11 innings of work. The success of the young guys is great to see, but not everybody had a good first week of the season in the pen — most notably, closer Jose Veras.
After a very successful 2013 with the Houston Astros and Detroit Tigers, the Cubs brought the journeyman reliever in as a free agent this offseason. Manager Rick Renteria almost immediately named Veras his closer for 2014. It was a low impact signing, but Veras was thought to be a nice veteran presence for a very young pitching staff.
It has only been two appearances, but Veras has looked awful in this young season. He blew his only save opportunity and couldn’t finish the game with a seven run lead heading into the ninth on Sunday. Control has been the biggest issue for Veras so far this season, as he has walked six of the 13 batters he has faced, giving Cubs fans Carlos Marmol flashbacks.
There have already been whispers that the Cubs should make Strop the closer before Veras starts giving away wins. Strop will likely be the closer in the near future and Veras is little more than a stopgap, so it does make some sense. While I understand the frustration, I do not think the Cubs should pull the plug on Veras yet. First of all, we are only a week into the season; obviously you would like to see your closer performing better, but he has only faced 13 batters. That is the smallest of sample sizes; you do not make any moves based in 13 at bats.
Perhaps more importantly, if Veras gets demoted, any chance of him having trade value goes out the window. Let’s be honest; the Cubs are not going to be competitive this season and will very likely be sellers at the trade deadline once again. If Veras can get his location under control and rack up some saves, he could become an attractive piece for a contender looking for an extra bullpen arm. I would not expect much on a return for Veras, but if he doesn’t get a chance to prove himself, he will be worth nothing.
With all that being said, if Veras continues to struggle, there will come a time to replace him with Strop in the ninth inning role. One thing is for sure — that is not after just six games.