CINCINNATI – If you’re waiting for bullpen help to arrive for the Chicago Cubs, you’re probably going to have to wait a little longer, according to general manager Jed Hoyer.
“External acquisitions become more of a possibility as we get closer to the [trade] deadline, but it’s still early,” Hoyer said Monday.
Scouts from many teams, including the Cubs, might be at Yankee Stadium to watch New York's relievers, but scouts are all over the place this time of year. For now, the Cubs are going to have to make do with what they have.
“You look for reinforcements,” Hoyer said. “Sometimes they’re from within. Sometimes you have to go outside and do that. It’s really difficult at this time of the year to go outside. That will be more and more of a possibility as we get closer to July [and the trade deadline].”
The Cubs could use the help. Their latest tryout is with 40-year-old Joel Peralta, after having given a chance to Gerardo Concepcion. Peralta retired two Cincinnati batters in the ninth inning Monday but also gave up a home run to lefty Joey Votto, so the jury is still out on him. Hector Rondon is being used more and more for multiple-inning saves -- not a great formula over the long term -- as Joe Maddon’s bullpen is upside down right now. Whom can he trust?
Either way, the Cubs are hitting the market. We know this. And just because Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman probably won’t be available until nearer the July 31 trade deadline – if at all – it doesn’t mean other lesser-known/talked-about relievers won’t be.
The Cubs need a lefty specialist first and foremost, so let’s examine some possibilities with the help of an advance scout who’s seen them recently. These are just a few guys our scout was able to watch in person and who play for teams likely to be selling before long. Their stats below are through Monday and include their batting averages and on-base percentages versus left-handed hitters.
He’s owed about $8 million over the next two seasons and should be available sooner rather than later if the A’s choose to sell as they’re well back in the American League West and the wild-card race. Our scout’s take: “There’s a little injury history, but he’s throwing good. He was 95, 96 mph, all heaters. All fastballs. Here it is, hit it. There’s something about it, hitters don’t see. ... Fearless guy. Perfect demeanor for a bullpen guy.”
Having one of his better seasons, he’s eligible for arbitration at the end of the year. The scout’s take: “He’s filthy. I think he can lose the zone on occasion, but he can be nasty.”
He's another arbitration-eligible guy, and the Pirates would really have to be out of the race and probably get a really decent prospect in return to trade with the Cubs. Still, it’s not impossible. Our scout loves him: “That’s the guy you want. I don’t care how he’s been pitching -- he’s the best one in the game in the eighth. I think of Andrew Miller as a closer, so Watson is the best setup man, I think.”
Boone Logan, 0-0, 3.15 ERA, 1 save, .170/.220 vs. LH
A pending free agent, Logan is having a resurgent season after posting ERAs of 4.33 and 6.84 the last two years. He’s been hit a little lately but has big-game experience pitching for the Yankees from 2010 to 2013. The scout says: “Boone Logan is throwing the ball really well. He was injured a couple years ago but I have to say he’s probably the best I’ve seen this year. He’s a big guy too.”
Some of these relievers should be available soon, and there’s no guarantee the Yankees relievers will be. The Cubs will probably search far and wide for lefties as well as righties, and they still have 41-year-old Joe Nathan waiting in the wings. Who will emerge, and whom will they acquire? The time for a move is getting closer.
“We’ve had a tough time keeping some games close,” Hoyer said. “For right now, we have to rely on the guys we signed. We’ll keep on trying to address it every day.”