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The case for the Cubs re-signing Wade Davis

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The Cubs need a closer. Wade Davis might be the best choice.

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Monday, Wade Davis became one of nine players given a $17.4 million qualifying offer from his 2017 team as he entered free agency. Jake Arrieta also received one. The Cubs and Royals (Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer) were the only teams to make a QO to more than one player.

I suppose Davis could accept the Cubs’ QO, remain with the team for one more season, and enter free agency again next year. But Davis will be 33 next offseason, so that’s extremely unlikely to happen.

Instead, if the Cubs want to keep him, they’ll have to shell out some fairly large dollars, and take a chance that he will remain effective until he’s almost 36.

MLB Trade Rumors predicts Davis will receive a four-year, $60 million offer, and their projected landing spot is the Astros, though they also say:

The Cubs shied away from big-money closers last winter, but it’s still possible they could pony up for Davis.

At MLB.com, Jim Duquette forecasts Davis to stay with the Cubs, and in that general area in terms of dollars:

His deal this offseason should be similar to Mark Melancon's four-year, $62 million contract from a year ago.

Therein lies the potential issue for giving an early-30s reliever a multi-year deal like this. Melancon started 2017 reasonably well, then started to get hit hard, and eventually had surgery for a forearm injury that had apparently been bothering him off and on for five years.

Davis had some forearm issues that forced him to miss some time in 2016, but he was healthy all year in 2017.

The Melancon deal is being held up as the example of a contract the Cubs (and other teams) should avoid, but two other closers signed long-term, multi-year contracts last offseason. Aroldis Chapman left the Cubs and signed a five-year, $86 million deal with the Yankees. Chapman was ineffective at times and was temporarily removed as closer, but regained the spot and threw well down the stretch (0.61 ERA, 0.545 WHIP in his final 14 regular-season appearances) and in the postseason (1.13 ERA, 1.125 WHIP, 16 strikeouts in eight innings).

And Kenley Jansen decided to remain with the Dodgers last offseason, signing a five-year, $75 million contract to remain in Los Angeles. He had a monster year, leading the National League with 41 saves (no blown saves) and only seven walks in 68⅓ innings.

So there’s no doubt that some closers are worth big-money, long-term deals. Jansen signed his before his age-29 season and Chapman before his age-30 season. Davis turned 32 this past September, so whoever signs him will be getting a somewhat older pitcher for several seasons.

It would seem that the money figure quoted in the MLBTR article is probably in the right ballpark for Davis. The Cubs can certainly afford this, especially if Jake Arrieta signs elsewhere.

The question in my mind isn’t whether Davis can be effective — I think he can — or about the money. It’s whether the Cubs have other alternatives.

Unless he can somehow cut down on his scary 5.2/nine innings walk ratio, Carl Edwards Jr. isn’t the answer at closer. Perhaps new pitching coach Jim Hickey can help CJ with this, but I’m not sure the Cubs want to enter spring training with CJ anointed as closer. It should be noted that Davis walked a lot of guys, too; his 4.3/nine innings walk ratio was the worst of his career. It was better in the first half (3.6) than in the second half (5.02). That’s something that would need to be worked on if the Cubs do re-sign Davis.

You might think this: Why don’t the Cubs trade for a closer, as they did for Davis?

I suppose that’s a possibility, but there are two issues here. First, after the trades from the summer of 2017 emptied out the top-prospect level of the Cubs farm system, they don’t have a lot of depth to deal from. Second, I don’t see a large number of teams with quality experienced closers they might want to trade. The only one might be Alex Colome of the Rays, and I’d guess Tampa Bay is going to want players the Cubs aren’t likely going to want to give up in exchange.

The Cubs are going to have to do more revamping of the bullpen than just a closer, as bullpen ineffectiveness was one of the reasons they failed in the 2017 postseason. Wade Davis is a known quantity, appears to take care of himself physically, and has excellent mound presence. I enjoy watching a guy pitch where absolutely nothing seems to bother him.

The question Theo & Co. have to answer is: Can Davis be effective through his age-35 season? If the answer they come up with is “Yes,” then they shouldn’t hesitate to make him that four-year offer.

Personally, I would do it. Would you?

Poll

Four years, about $60 million for Wade Davis.

This poll is closed

  • 29%
    Too much, let him walk
    (329 votes)
  • 68%
    Just right, keep him
    (774 votes)
  • 1%
    Don’t want him at any price
    (19 votes)
1122 votes total Vote Now