The Chicago Cubs went all-in and traded for the Yankees Aroldis Chapman to close out games. Hector Rondon happily shifted his role. But what about next year? Do they really need to spend big on someone to close games?
The Chicago Cubs traded one of their up-and-comers in the farm system in Gleyber Torres (as well as a few other pieces) to get Aroldis Chapman. It seemed like an obvious move. Torres was blocked by–well, the entire Cubs infield–and the Cubs wanted someone on the backend they could count on. Even with a bit of a scuffle in the World Series, Chapman was exactly who the Cubs needed him to be. And with that, they became World Series Champions. But do they need to sign Chapman, Mark Melancon or a Kenley Jansen to get back to the Fall Classic?
First, I’ve never been a big fan of signing closers. The lifespan on them is fleeting minus a few of the greats, and it can quickly turn into a bad investment. In the case of Chapman? Trading for one can be a logical move–assuming he stays healthy. But dropping somewhere around $100 million for one? I think you’re simply asking for trouble. The process of finding a capable one in your system and developing them is paramount to success. The Rule 5 pick in Hector Rondon seemed to work, so why does it seem they’re giving up on him?
They’re not. Well, not really. The triceps injury that kept him out of action for part of last season is concerning. And if you remember that he was a Rule 5 pick BECAUSE of an injury to his pitching arm, well, you can understand the Cubs thinking. Here’s the thing, Rondon was pitching at an elite level for much of the year. And when the Cubs acquired Chapman, he graciously stepped aside (not that he really had a choice, I suppose). But then in August he hit the DL, and when he returned he was clearly not the same.
It takes patience–and low expectations
The difficulty in “finding” a closer among your ranks is having the time to work one out. Generally, it happens when you’re losing–or at least have low expectations–and can throw a guy into the situation. Needless to say, that’s not where the Cubs are at. You don’t have time to identify a potential new closer while you are in the midst of a possible dynasty (the media’s words, not mine).
Aside from Rondon, there are candidates in the Cubs system. Some might say Pedro Strop, but I don’t see him being a good fit for the role. In a pinch? Yes. He can get the job done. But his control can leave him at times and he hits too many batters (Carlos Marmol flashbacks). Carl Edwards, Jr. and Rob Zastryzny both seem like capable arms. But could they handle the grind of those high leverage situations, day in and day out?
If the Cubs decide to “throw money” at free agency, I’d prefer to see it for a starting pitcher. Most of the big free agent closers are going to want entirely too much money. It’s not my money, but I’m not comfortable with the thought of the Cubs spending that type of cash for a closer.
If the Cubs somehow can work out a trade and get a closer or a late-inning guy as part of the deal, so be it. That’s something I can live with. I mean, assuming they don’t give up the house for whoever the “featured” piece of the trade would be. But, as usual, In Theo we trust.