In recent years, Theo Epstein has dived into the scrap heap to find help for his beleaguered bullpen. Jed Hoyer did the same Wednesday when he claimed Robert Stock from the Red Sox on waivers.
Now, the Cubs have an opportunity to bring in a reliever who’s under 30 and has had some big-league success.
Archie Bradley, who played most of his career with the Diamondbacks before he was traded to the Reds at the August 31 deadline last year, was non-tendered by Cincinnati Wednesday.
Bradley has a career 3.91 ERA and 1.359 WHIP in 255 appearances (34 starts). He’s been much better than that since he was converted to full-time relief in 2017 — 220 appearances, 2.80 ERA, 1.174 WHIP, 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings.
There’s a bit of a caveat with Bradley, as his fastball velocity was down in 2020, to 94.2 miles per hour from 95.5 (2019) and 95.6 (2018), per Fangraphs. The 2020 season was such an anomaly, though, that I don’t think anyone can know whether that’s a real drop, or just something that the pandemic-reduced season induced.
Bradley served as the D-backs closer for the last couple of months of 2019, after closer Greg Holland had a couple of really bad games and was ultimately released. Bradley then posted 18 saves in 19 opportunities the rest of 2019. After being put in the closer role he posted a 2.10 ERA and 1.052 WHIP in 22 appearances. Thus, he’d be able to back up Craig Kimbrel if Kimbrel has some more meltdowns. This would especially be needed if the Cubs decide to move on from Jeremy Jeffress, who did a good job closing when Kimbrel was melting down in 2020.
Bradley would have made $4.1 million in 2020 had it been a full season, and per MLB Trade Rumors could possibly have received as much as $5.7 million in arbitration.
As with Carlos Rodon, you’d probably want to put some incentives in Bradley’s contract, though I would think he’d have to be signed to a major-league deal, perhaps with a base salary of $2 million or so, with incentives for games finished that would bring him up to perhaps $4.5 million if (say) he had 50 or 55 games finished, which is a typical number for a closer.
The Cubs are going to need more relievers. Bradley is 28 and was Arizona’s first-round pick (seventh overall) in 2011 — two picks before the Cubs took Javier Baez. It’d be nice to make them teammates.
The Cubs signing Archie Bradley...
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