CHICAGO – The Chicago Cubs have bolstered their bullpen today by reaching a deal with free-agent reliever Koji Uehara, with the two sides agreeing on a one year $6 million dollar contract.
The Chicago Cubs have spent the offseason laying low for the most part, with most of their World Series Championship winning roster under club control for the near future. The Cubs have however quietly bolstered their bullpen this winter.
During the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings in Washington D.C. the club acquired closer Wade Davis from the Kansas City Royals in a trade for outfielder Jorge Soler. On Wednesday the Cubs signed former Boston Red Sox reliever Koji Uehara to a one year, $6 million dollar contract.
Uehara, 41, appeared in 50 games for the Red Sox in 2016, notching seven saves while posting a sub-four ERA for Boston. Over his Major League Baseball career, Uehara has 93 saves and 67 holds with a 2.53 ERA over the course of nearly 500 innings pitched. Uehara also has an impressive career WHIP of 0.86 during his time with the Orioles and Red Sox.
While the Cubs did walk away from closer Aroldis Chapman this winter, they did so smartly. The Cubs chose not to pursue the fire-ball hurling closer at the hefty price tag that he was searching for, rather to acquire Wade Davis from the Royals in exchange for Soler, who realistically had very little chance of seeing regular playing time in a packed Cubs outfield.
With Soler seeing anywhere from 50-100 at bats per month in 2016, and that number to likely reduce in 2017, the Cubs virtually picked up Wade Davis for nothing but a below average defensive outfielder who was buried in their depth chart.
Wade Davis appeared in 45 games for the Kansas City Royals in 2016, recording 27 saves in 30 save opportunities. Davis has 47 saves, 58 holds, 689 strike outs and a career 3.53 ERA over the course of 776.2 innings pitched. Davis posted a stellar 1.87 ERA in 2016 for the Royals.
The Cubs bullpen now features the likes of Wade Davis in the ninth inning role, and some combination of Koji Uehara, C.J. Edwards, and Hector Rondon in the middle to late innings. Joe Maddon now has something that he appeared to be lacking in the 2016 World Series when he relied heavily on Aroldis Chapman out of the bullpen, options.
Maddon seemed to have little trust in his bullpen options outside of Chapman in the late innings, even opting to go to starting pitcher Jon Lester instead of his bullpen arms. The Davis and Uehara acquisitions should lessen Maddon’s doubts about his bullpen heading into the 2017 season.