With Brandon Morrow expected to miss the first month of the season and Pedro Strop now nursing a hamstring strain, the Cubs are looking at some questions in their relief corps. The organization has sent some conflicting signals, though, on how it intends to proceed.
Skipper Joe Maddon suggested there was some discussion of potential acquisitions in recent comments, as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun Times writes. Though Wittenmyer reports that there have been no budgetary changes that would support pursuit of Craig Kimbrel, he indicated that the organization might look to the waiver wire and explore potential trades to deepen their bullpen.
President of baseball operations Theo Epstein put a somewhat different spin on things in his comments later today. He said that he does not “foresee anything significant at all” in terms of new acquisitions and added that he is confident in the team’s existing depth. (Twitter links.)
It stands to reason that the club will at least look into other possibilities. The Cubs could at a minimum peruse this season’s crop of out-of-options players, as several of those players face uphill battles to make their current rosters.
That said, Chicago isn’t exactly teeming with bullpen flexibility. Even if Morrow and Strop open the year on the injured list, the team projects to commit roster spots to at least six veterans who can’t be optioned: Mike Montgomery, Steve Cishek, Brad Brach, Brandon Kintzler, Brian Duensing and Tyler Chatwood. Beyond that, while Carl Edwards Jr. can technically be optioned, he’s a lock for the Opening Day roster.
Speculatively speaking, perhaps the Cubs would simply part ways with an underperforming veteran if a more affordable bullpen option presented itself. It could also be that an intervening development will open a spot. As it stands, though, the club’s relief corps currently looks like a potentially problematic area that can’t be easily addressed.