The Cubs are expected to add at least one reliever to the roster this winter. And it was believed the front office was focused on a southpaw to join Wesley Wright in order to give new manager Joe Maddon a pair of lefties in his bullpen. At the end of the season it was suggested the Cubs could be looking for a proven right hander for the backend of the pen as well to mix in with the young power arms that were very good at the end of the year.
“I think we can be selective when it comes to looking to add to the bullpen that is a nice feeling to have,” Theo Epstein said at the end of the season. “I think the second you feel you are set in the bullpen the volatility of relief performance year-to-year, both individually and in respect to the pen as a whole will bite you.”
“You can’t rest on your laurels when it comes to the pen. I think adding the right type of arm that maybe compliments what we already have or provides some redundancies in the event of the inevitable injury or downturn in performance is important.”
Multiple reports in recent days have connected the Cubs to RHP David Robertson and indicated the Cubs would be interested in signing the Yankees’ closer if he turns down the qualifying offer and becomes a free agent.
David Robertson assumed the closer duties for the Yankees last season with the retirement of Mariano Rivera. Robertson was 5-1 in 70 appearances in 2013 with a 2.04 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 2.61 FIP that included 77 strikeouts and 18 walks in 66 1/3 innings. In his first season as the closer in the Bronx, Robertson saved 39 games and posted a 4-5 record with a 3.08 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and a 2.68 WHIP (96 strikeouts, 23 walks and 45 hits allowed in 64 1/3 innings). The Yankees thought enough of his performance to make him a qualifying offer that would pay Robertson $15.3 million if he accepted.
The general consensus around the league is that Robertson will accept the qualifying offer and stay with the Yankees. There is too much risk for him to test the open market with draft pick compensation tied to him. Plus, there are not many teams in a position to pay a closer big money and sacrifice a draft pick on top of at least a three-year contract. As Buster Olney reported, Robertson would likely sign a three-year, $30 million contract in free agency and if he accepted qualifying offers from the Yankees the next two winters he would be paid more than $30 million.
Joel Sherman reported Tuesday that the Cubs are one of the teams that might be willing to forfeit a draft pick in order to sign David Robertson, once he rejects the Yankees qualifying offer. Even if the Cubs were to sign Max Scherzer or James Shields or Russell Martin, Sherman reported the Cubs “could decide losing a third round pick for Robertson is worth it and sign him, too.”
Hector Rondon had a very good season after he took over as the Cubs’ closer, even without being given the title. Rondon saved 29 games for the Cubs and posted a 4-4 record with a 2.42 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 2.26 FIP. In 64 games (63 1/3 innings), Rondon gave up 52 hits with 15 walks and 63 strikeouts. And Rondon was lights out after the break.
Over his last 29 appearances, Hector Rondon was 18-for-19 in save opportunities while giving up four runs, two earned, on 17 hits with two walks and 24 strikeouts (0.62 ERA, 0.66 WHIP).
Theo Epstein spoke highly of Rondon at the end of the year and thought he had a chance to remain the Cubs closer in 2015.
“This year he shows no ill effects to the ninth inning, the pressure I think he thrives on it,” Epstein said. “He knows how good his stuff is. He’s throwing 98 mph. He can cut the ball. I think his slider has come a long way, same thing with the cutter and he’s been as good as you can possibly hope for. What a success story for a Rule 5 pick and what a great future he has in front of him.”
Neil Ramirez also fared well in the closer’s role on the days Rondon could not be used. And the Cubs have more power arms, albeit unproven, in the system pushing their way to the big league club in Armando Rivero and Arodys Vizcaino. Justin Grimm and Pedro Strop were effective in setup roles bridging the game to the ninth inning in the second half.
David Robertson has until Monday (Nov. 10) to decide whether or not to accept the qualifying offer. If he hits free agency, the noise about him signing with the Cubs will only get louder. But it is hard to see the Cubs investing free agent dollars and a draft pick on a volatile commodity when there are more cost effective options already on the 40-man roster and depth in the system.