Buster Olney posted his list of the top bullpens, and Olney ranked the Cubs behind the Yankees, Royals, Red Sox and Astros as having the fifth best pen in baseball.
According to Buster Olney, teams like the Yankees “might have more dynamic options at the back end, but the Cubs might have more depth than any other team in baseball.” Olney pointed to seven different relievers picking up saves last season as being a strength that shows versatility.
Olney feels the Cubs should once again have depth in the pen with Hector Rondon and “holdovers Pedro Strop, Trevor Cahill, Justin Grimm, Travis Wood, Neil Ramirez and newcomers Adam Warren and Rex Brothers.”
Buster Olney’s top 10 bullpens: Yankees, Royals, Red Sox, Astros, Cubs, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Pirates, Orioles and Marlins. Olney thinks the Indians, Giants and Mets are the best of the rest.
The Cubs pen performed better last year than its given credit, especially over the last two months of the regular season. The bullpen ranked fourth in the NL in ERA (3.38), fourth in WHIP (1.23), fifth in strikeouts (511), eighth in walks allowed (183), tied for 10th in home runs allowed (42), tied for ninth in hits allowed (450) and second in batting average against (.234).
The Cubs bullpen had a 5.0 WAR last season, tops in the NL, in front of the Pirates (4.7), Dodgers (4.5) and Cardinals (4.5).
After the break, the Cubs pen led the National League in WAR (2.8), just ahead of the Pirates (2.6) according to FanGraphs.
The Cubs brought back RHP Trevor Cahill, retained LHP Clayton Richard and traded for RHP Adam Warren. Cahill, Richard and Warren will be stretched out in Spring Training, along with LHP Travis Wood and RHP Carl Edwards Jr. Warren, Cahill, Richard and Wood will compete in the spring for a spot in the rotation.
The Cubs added depth to the relief corps by signing RHP Andury Acevedo, trading for LHP Rex Brothers and RHP Spencer Patton and claiming LHP Edgar Olmos off waivers twice. LHP Zac Rosscup was tendered a contract and will be in the bullpen mix this season.
RHP Neil Ramirez is reportedly healthy. If he has put last season’s issues behind him, Ramirez could play a big role in the bullpen this season. RHP Justin Grimm was leaned on heavily last year, pitched rather well and will figure prominently once again in the pen.
RHP Hector Rondon and RHP Pedro Strop are expected to cover the last two innings and lock down the games when the Cubs have the lead.
The Cubs also added RHP Brandon Gomes, RHP Stephen Fife, RHP Jean Machi, LHP Scott Barnes, LHP Luis Cruz and LHP Jack Leathersich to the organization on minor league contracts this off-season.
The Cubs may not be done adding, or subtracting from the bullpen options. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are in constant communication with Matt Silverman and the Rays, according to Jim Bowden, and those conversations are believed to include Jake McGee and Brad Boxberger as the front office would like to strengthen the pen. And the Cubs have been connected heavily with free agent RHP Fernando Rodney.