While the Chicago Cubs have a few holes to fill in the starting rotation this offseason, there is also a lot to be looked at in the bullpen. A bullpen can be a difficult thing to tackle considering how relievers can have spurts of greatness and struggle suddenly in a matter of a season. The Cubs' bullpen certainly has some effective pieces in it, but there is work to be done with both getting new relievers, re-signing key pieces, and fixing problems some promising arms possess.

This is just a quick evaluation of what the Cubs currently have and what the future of key arms in 2017 could hold.

Wade Davis

No doubt the brightest spot of the bullpen all season long, the 32-year-old closer came in from Kansas City via trade and was extremely effective. Davis recorded 32/33 saves while sporting a 2.30 ERA, 3.38 FIP, 1.142 WHIP, and 79 strikeouts in 58.2 innings. From 2014-2017, Davis statistically has been a top-five closer in baseball and was the lone Cubs All-Star last year. He was given a qualifying offer by the Cubs just a few days ago as his contract expires, but he will most likely go for a multi-year deal.

As good as Davis was, there are some things to note. Last year he struck out the most batters (79) as a reliever since 2014 when he struck out 109. However, his walks were up and he gave up six home runs after only giving up three total between 2014-2016.

His FIP was much higher than his 2014-2016 totals (1.86 combined in those years) so he was effective but not as dominant as previous years. He did also have injuries the year before which required surgery, which he may have felt the effects of at times.

Wade Davis is still very good and worth paying, but giving a huge contract to relievers is risky.

Is he worth a decent multi-year deal? Yes, he still has enough left in the tank to be a good closer. However, the Cubs will probably avoid Chapman/Melancon type deals, especially considering he is over 30. He may be back, he may not be.

Carl Edwards

This kid is often being called the "future closer" of the Cubs. He has an upper-90s fastball and a devastating curve which has helped him to a 2.98 ERA, 3.40 FIP, 1.010 WHIP and 94 strikeouts in 66.1 innings.

The stuff is there, however, there was a big issue with walks this year. Between the regular season and postseason, Edwards walked 44 batters. It was easy to tell if he had his command or not based on the first pitch or two he threw in an appearance, as he could get really wild.

Even if Davis goes, the Cubs probably are not ready to move him into the closer role until he proves he can have consistently good command. He shows a lot of promise and could very well be that guy one day, but first thing is first.

Strop and Rondon

These two have been around for a while in the Cubs' bullpen. Hector Rondon was the Cubs' closer from 2014 until mid-2016 when they rented Aroldis Chapman. In that span he was good, 2.44 ERA, 2.76 FIP, and 190 strikeouts for 77 saves.

Since then he has battled injury problems and has not been consistent. In 2017 he had a 4.42 ERA with 20 walks and 10 home runs given up. He is primarily a two-pitch pitcher (fastball, slider) and he was not locating the fastball or getting the break on the slider as often as desired. He went from a reliable back-end bullpen guy to essentially a mop-up duty role. If he struggles to start 2018, he may face being DFAed.

Pedro Strop can be wild at times but he is still overall effective. He had a 2.83 ERA, 3.31 FIP, and only four home runs given up in 60.1 innings. Despite the fact that he can be a bit nerve-wracking to watch at times, he still should be a valuable asset in the pen moving forward.

The lefties

The primary lefties in the pen included Brian Duensing, Justin Wilson and Mike Montgomery. Duensing was a pleasant surprise last year as he pitched to a 2.74 ERA in 62.1 innings. He came into a number of situations and was consistently effective, from getting one out in a key situation or pitching a clean full inning late. He is a free agent and the Cubs very likely could bring him back on a nice, cheap deal.

Mike Montgomery is a big topic of conversation considering his ability to pitch in long-relief and start ball games. The man who got the final out of the 2016 World Series had ups and downs in 2017. He sported a 3.38 ERA with 100 strikeouts in 130.2 innings, but had some real rough patches.

He was also prone to the walk (55) and got absolutely shelled in the postseason. The talk of him always seems to be grooming him into a starter, but next year could be more of the same spot-start/pen duty again.

Justin Wilson was a real head-scratcher. He came over in the Jeimer Candelario deal along with Alex Avila near the trade deadline. Wilson was a dominant lefty force in Detroit in the first half (2.68 ERA and 0.942 WHIP) and then came to Chicago and struggled mightily. In 17.2 innings he walked 19 batters and gave up 10 earned runs. The sudden loss of command was baffling and he went from highly trustworthy to not at all in quick time. He's been overall a solid pitcher in his career and the Cubs will have control of him next year, so hopefully Jim Hickey can solve his sudden command issues.


There are some names to briefly touch on. 2017 saw the calling up of Jen-Ho Tseng and Dillon Maples. Both groomed in the minor league system, expect them to get more playing time next season. It is hard to fully evaluate them considering the sample size for both of them was very small (combined 11.1 innings and eight appearances).

A household Cubs name the past few years in the pen has been Justin Grimm. He really struggled this year with a 5.53 ERA, 5.36 FIP, and 12 home runs given up in 55.1 innings. Once a very good reliever for the Cubs from 2014-2015, he has slowly declined. He may rediscover what he had in 2015 but it seems that that would come in another environment. He is arbitration-eligible this year, so what happens with him remains to be seen.