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The Cubs Still Need Some Bullpen Help

Saturday's game pointed out some flaws in the relief plan.

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

So far, only one of the Cubs' three deadline-deal bullpen acquisitions has performed as advertised.

Aroldis Chapman does have one blown save as a Cub, but that was due to one of just two hits he's allowed in 7⅔ innings pitched since he arrived. He's converted his other four save opportunities and has struck out 11 of the 25 hitters he's faced.

Mike Montgomery has been shakier. He allowed runs in each of his first three Cubs appearances, including a homer to the first batter he faced (Kirk Nieuwenhuis). But since then he's thrown four scoreless innings with seven strikeouts, so it seems he's on the upswing.

Joe Smith, though, has just been bad. He's faced 17 batters. Eight of them have reached base (six hits, two walks) and he's allowed three home runs, including Saturday's grand slam by Randal Grichuk that put the game away for the Cardinals. Here's Smith being master-of-the-obvious:

"I've never had a problem with that (home runs) in my whole career," Smith said at his locker stall after the game. "I don't know. Just missing. When I miss, they seem to hit it over the wall."

Well, he might not have had a problem like that before, but he does now. And it raises the question: Do the Cubs need to move on from Smith? They gave up very little to get him (an A-ball lottery ticket), so the cost of releasing him would be small.

That same link above shows what Saturday's problem was:

Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon said it best after his team's 11-game win streak ended in Saturday's 8-4 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals:

"That's an example of what the team looks like without (Pedro) Strop and (Hector) Rondon," he stated.

Exactly right, and the Cubs need some reliable guys to get to Chapman. Carl Edwards Jr. could be one of those guys, but he was awful Saturday. Hopefully that's just a one-off and he can recover his previous form. Before Saturday Edwards had generally been quite good this year.

But all this raises the question: Can the Cubs do better than Smith?

Trevor Cahill is already in Chicago working out with the team, and is expected to be activated as the 26th man for Tuesday's doubleheader, likely starting. Could he be the "missing link" and stick around, replacing Smith?

Or, could the Cubs bring Joe Nathan back from DFA-land?

One player I don't want to see in a Cubs uniform is Jonathan Papelbon, who got his release from the Nationals Saturday. Not only does Papelbon occasionally have attitude issues, he was having a really bad year before the Nats traded for Mark Melancon to replace him. Papelbon has four blown saves this year and from the All-Star break to his release posted an 11.37 ERA and 2.684 WHIP in eight appearances covering 6⅓ innings.

I mention Papelbon only because he has, obviously, a Theo connection, drafted by the Red Sox in 2003 and a key part of their 2004 and 2007 World Series-winning teams. But no. Just no.

So I put it to you: what should the Cubs do to (again) shore up the back end of their bullpen?