The Cubs have another reunion in the works, agreeing to a minor league contract and Spring Training invite with free-agent righty Pedro Strop, as first reported by Mike Rodriguez (Twitter link). Strop, a client QC Sports, will earn $800K if he makes the big league club.
Strop, acquired alongside Jake Arrieta in one of the more lopsided deals in recent memory, was with the Cubs from 2013-19 before an extremely brief, 2 1/3-inning stint with the Reds in 2020. He and Arrieta, who reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with the Cubs last week, could now both be back at Wrigley Field for the 2021 campaign.
A groin injury limited Strop’s time with the Reds in 2020, but his results even when on the mound weren’t particularly encouraging. It was a small sample, of course, but Strop walked six of the 15 batters he faced and also threw a wild pitch, indicating that his control wasn’t anywhere near its usual levels. It’s likely that the groin injury contributed to those struggles, but the Reds didn’t give him much of a chance to right the ship; Strop was designated for assignment immediately upon coming off the IL. He returned to the Cubs on a minor league deal but didn’t get back to the Majors.
Now healthy, the 35-year-old Strop should have a decent chance of making the team. The Cubs’ bullpen is largely unsettled behind closer Craig Kimbrel — and even he has yet to ever truly find consistency in Chicago. The Cubs reportedly agreed to a deal with Brandon Workman earlier this morning, and they’ve also signed lefty Andrew Chafin to a big league deal. Beyond that, they’ll rely on a host of journeymen and/or prospects with limited MLB track records. Rowan Wick, Dan Winkler, Duane Underwood Jr., Jason Adam and Brad Wieck are among the team’s other options in the ’pen.
Certainly, given his track record, Strop could have an inside track on a bullpen spot. The righty’s original seven-year stint with the Cubs, after all, was an undeniable success. He racked up 373 innings out of the Chicago bullpen, pitching to a 2.90 ERA with 28 saves, 110 holds, a 28.1 percent strikeout rate and a 9.7 percent walk rate. He added in 17 innings of 2.12 ERA ball in the postseason, including a pair of scoreless frames in the 2016 World Series.
There’s surely some sentimental value in the signing for Cubs fans, but it’s hard to overlook the fact that the team is putting together a patchwork bullpen for the third straight offseason. The combined $3.75MM the Cubs have spent on Workman and Chafin is the only guaranteed money invested in the bullpen this winter, and the club hasn’t succeeded in developing a reliable in-house reliever in years. To their credit, the organization has still posted middle-of-the-pack results in terms of bullpen ERA despite the lack of homegrown arms or notable additions, but it’s also tough to cobble together an effective relief corps in this manner each offseason.