The Cubs are “actively exploring a trade for” a star closer, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports (Twitter link). Most of the speculation surrounding the Cubs this winter has been focused on their search for pitching or outfield help, as Chicago’s bullpen was strong last year and current closer Hector Rondon has posted two seasons of excellent relief work.
Rondon did run into some difficulties in May of last season, though those struggles essentially consisted of two rough weeks that include two of his four blown saves. Otherwise, Rondon was mostly spotless, as evidenced by a tiny 0.88 ERA and 51 strikeouts (against just 10 walks) over his last 51 regular season innings. Pushing Rondon to a setup role would, theoretically, make the Cubs’ relief corps even stronger and closer to the Royals model of a shutdown bullpen that shortens games.
Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Mark Melancon, Ken Giles, Jonathan Papelbon, Jake McGee and Brad Boxberger are some of the closers who have been floated as trade candidates in what has been a crowded relief market this offseason, with Craig Kimbrel and Francisco Rodriguez already changing teams. Chapman and Melancon could be difficult fits for the Cubs, however, depending on how the Reds and Pirates feel about dealing within the NL Central.