CHICAGO – For once, a professional sports team did what a fan would have done given the situation the Chicago Cubs faced with their bullpen. Instead of shuttling another young player back to the minor leagues, they decided to give embattled reliever Jose Veras his walking papers by designating him for assignment. They’ll try to trade him, but either way his days in a Cubs uniform are over.
“When we sat down and made the decision, ultimately, we have a lot of young guys that are playing well,” general manager Jed Hoyer said Tuesday. “We wanted to stick with those guys for now.”
It’s a testament to a developing young bullpen that the Cubs simply let Veras walk despite owing him four months of a $4 million contract he signed this offseason. Doing what’s right for the rebuild trumped all else.
“It sends two different messages,” manager Rick Renteria said. “One is that you guys have done a nice job and we’re going to go with you.”
The other is if you aren’t performing as a veteran you’re going to eventually find your way off the team. Hoyer said credit Brian Schlitter, Neil Ramirez, Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon for forcing the issue. They might not be household names just yet, but that’s the crux of a bullpen which has produced a 1.94 ERA over the last 18 games. Veras served a purpose helping some young players along, but from the very first day of spring training his stuff didn’t look right. And it caught up with him.
Hoyer was asked if he would ever sign or pay big money to a closer again as the last two seasons they’ve had quasi-expensive failures to start the year in that role.
“You hope you don’t have to,” Hoyer responded. “I would never say never, but I would hope we could develop our own relievers. And develop our own closers. It makes that task a lot easier.”
They’ve done that in a short amount of time as Rondon has come out of nowhere to take the job. Ramirez also has a live arm and could see a save opportunity along the way. The rebuilding of the team needs bullpen arms to make it, as well as the big named prospects. And even though the players in the bullpen can change from year to year, the Cubs are trying to develop a core there as well.
On Tuesday, they made a move any paying customer would be proud of: ate a contract and gave some young players a chance to continue in their roles. That makes up for the signing in the first place.