Cubs are temporarily shutting Brandon Morrow down. He had discomfort during recovery of a side session earlier this week.— Madeline Kenney (@madkenney) April 20, 2019
Obviously, this isn’t good. There had been some hope that Brandon Morrow would return to the Cubs bullpen sometime next month and now this looks doubtful.
So what should the Cubs do about this? There are several choices.
Sign Craig Kimbrel
I addressed this possibility in an article here two weeks ago. Thinking about it again, I reach the same conclusion I did then: Don’t do it. First, signing Kimbrel now would require draft compensation. The Cubs are already picking 27th overall in this year’s draft; with various compensation picks already set and “competitive balance” choices to follow, if they signed Kimbrel their first pick would be 65th overall. This is not optimal for a team that needs to re-stock its system.
Second, there is the cautionary tale of Kimbrel’s mediocre performance in the 2018 postseason and also in 22 post-All-Star appearances last year, where he posted a 4.57 ERA, 1.200 WHIP and three blown saves in 15 chances. I mean... the Cubs already have guys who can do that.
Lastly, it’s not like Kimbrel could sign today and be in the bullpen tomorrow. The Cardinals found that out when they signed Greg Holland and put him in MLB games nine days later. He was so bad in St. Louis that they released him. Kimbrel would likely have to spend some time getting in shape at extended spring training and then throw a few minor-league games to get up to speed.
So my answer to this idea is still “no.”
Try some other players from the system
This is likely going to happen. Carl Edwards Jr. is at Triple-A Iowa trying to get back to form. If he does, this probably solves the issue, as CJ can be lights-out when he’s on. There’s also Dillon Maples, who could be an outstanding big-league reliever if he could ever consistently throw strikes, and James Norwood, who can throw 98 miles per hour. It’s almost certain that those three guys, all of whom have options, will be in the Cubs’ big-league bullpen, and sooner rather than later.
Allen Webster, who was hit pretty hard in his last outing, might be odd-man-out. Webster is out of options and would have to clear waivers to remain in the system. At this point, that seems possible.
Look for a setup man outside the organization
We are 20 games into the season, or one-eighth of the way through. It’s probably too early to think trade. Despite Sunday’s blown save, Pedro Strop can probably handle the closer’s job for this year if needed. Once he officially replaced Morrow as closer last year, he posted a 1.77 ERA, 0.836 WHIP and 11 saves in 13 opportunities. This year? Not quite as good, so far, but it’s a very small sample size (eight appearances).
What the Cubs need is a reliable setup man besides Steve Cishek. Cishek does a good job in the setup role, but you saw how he wore down late in the 2018 season. Perhaps Brandon Kintzler, who’s pitched pretty well so far in 2019 (no runs and only one allowed in eight of his nine outings, the other one, uh, was pretty bad), could be that guy. If so, the Cubs are set and don’t need to look outside.
But if that doesn’t happen, I could see Theo & Co. looking for a setup type in trade rather than trying to trade for an available closer when the trading deadline approaches.
Which leads me to the following conclusion...
Do nothing, for now
The Cubs, after a rough season-starting road trip, have won eight of their last 11 and the pitching staff has been really good in those 11 games:
#Cubs pitching this season— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) April 21, 2019
Thru Apr 7 (9 gms): 7.51 (last in MLB)
Apr 8 on (11 gms): 1.73 (first in MLB)
So really, even with Morrow out indefinitely, in my view there isn’t any urgency to do anything. Mike Montgomery will be back soon:
LHP Mike Montgomery will make another rehab appearance on Monday with Double-A Tennessee. Assuming all goes well this should be his final rehab appearance before returning to big league clubs. #Cubs— Matthew Aung (@MatthewS_Aung) April 21, 2019
That should help solidify things in the bullpen as well. For now, I think Cubs pitching is doing fine. My choice is “do nothing.”
Brandon Morrow will throw his next pitch for the Cubs in...
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