Teams are believed to be talking to the Cubs about both James Russell and Wesley Wright. Contending teams are always looking for ways to upgrade the bullpen, especially with left-handed relievers. While Russell and Wright did not fare too well in their most recent outings, both southpaws are having good seasons and are cost effective, plus Russell and Wright have a year of club control left on their contract.
The Braves, Angels and Blue Jays are at least three teams looking to add a lefty to the mix in their bullpen. And while James Russell and Wesley Wright are in the daily rumor mill, neither one of the relievers has been connected to a specific team or teams.
But could the front office be working on a deal for either lefty reliever, or both?
A blurb buried on a report from Cubs.com indicated the Cubs plan on leaving lefty Chris Rusin in the bullpen for now. Rusin was a candidate to fill one of the two spots in the rotation that was vacated by the trade with Oakland. But according to the report, the Cubs do not plan to use Chris Rusin as a starter.
With the two spots on the active roster that have to be cleared for Dallas Beeler and Kyle Hendricks in the next two days, Chris Rusin appeared to be one of the two candidates that would be sent down to open a roster spot. Unless there is an injury, if the Cubs option out Rusin he must stay in the minors for at least 10 days.
Chris Rusin would provide Rick Renteria with a long reliever and a southpaw that has pitched much better in the big leagues against lefties (.218/.256/.282) than righties (.306/.382/.502).
James Russell is aware he could be part of the next group of players the front office trades between now and the end of August.
James Russell has fared better against right handers than lefties this season. Overall, Russell has given up 17 hits in 25 1/3 innings over 35 appearances with 11 walks and 21 strikeouts. Right handers are hitting only .114/.231/.113 against Russell this year while lefties have managed a .267/.340/.462 slash line and all three homers Russell has allowed this season have been to left handed hitters.
Wesley Wright’s numbers are similar to Russell’s stats for the season. In 24 1/3 innings, Wesley Wright has given up 20 hits with seven walks and 20 strikeouts over 32 appearances. Wright has fared slightly better against lefties (.263/.293/.244) than Russell, but he’s still had more success against right handers (.182/.267/.262) than lefties.
Zac Rosscup figures to fill the one of the two lefty spots, if the Cubs trade both Russell and Wright. Rosscup has limited left handed hitters to a .059/.238/.235 slash line in the majors, and while it is a small sample size, Rosscup showed a lot of improvement in the four games he’s pitched with the Cubs this season.
While the Cubs return for either reliever might not end up more than a low-level minor leaguer or a waiver claim, the front office might want to see how Chris Rusin and/or Zac Rosscup fit into the mix in the bullpen before September rolls around. Plus any payroll that is saved could always be rolled over to next year’s budget.