Cubs

What the Non-Tender to Hector Rondon means for the Cubs’ Bullpen.

By now I’m sure you’ve heard that the Cubs have non-tendered Hector Rondon. Coming off of a tough 2017 campaign in which he posted a 4.24 ERA with an inflated BB/9 (3.14) and HR/9 (1.57), it’s an understandable move for the Cubs to make considering his projected salary via arbitration was $6.2 million.

I get that this move is hardly surprising. The combination of diminished performance, Joe Maddon‘s clear lack of trust in his former closer, and a hefty contract left this as obvious a choice as there could be, even if the Cubs sorely need bullpen help in every aspect. Still, this move stings, if only because Hector was a consistent relief presence as the Cubs went from train-wreck, to contention, to world champions. I’ve a soft spot in my heart for him, with the admission that every high-leverage scenario he entered into last season made me cringe.

You may recall that Hector was a gem of a Rule 5 pick-up (from Cleveland), and despite his shaky last year and a half with the team he turned in a fine career with the Cubs. All told, he posted a respectable 3.22 ERA in Chicago, surrendering just .91 HR/9 while amassing 77 saves in 296 1/3 innings. He flashed the potential to be an elite closer, but his inconsistency ultimately got the best of him.

The lack of self-confidence, shaky control, and the need for the Cubs to revamp their bullpen made this move understandable, if not inevitable. That said, at just 29 years old, and with significant closing experience to match a fastball velocity that remains in the mid-to-upper 90’s, I suspect Rondon will get a chance elsewhere to reestablish himself, and I wish him the best of luck.

In other bullpen news, the Cubs did indeed tender a contract to Justin Grimm – who, aside from 2015, has never parlayed his talent into quality results. While he hasn’t had anywhere near the career Rondon has had, he also comes at a much cheaper price tag, and it won’t hurt to see if newly minted pitching coach Jim Hickey can help reinvent the talented arm. He’s also out of minor league options, so it wouldn’t be surprising if the Cubs cut Grimm this spring should he struggle in Arizona.

With recent FA pick-up Dario Alvarez maintaining one option left and the 40-man roster currently sitting at 34, expect the Cubs to aggressively pursue bullpen arms as the market begins to take shape. It remains to be seen whether they pursue in earnest a high end closer (such as bringing back Wade Davis) or cast a wide net of second-tier arms, but it is clear that the bullpen remains a high priority. We’ll keep you posted with news and analysis as those moves are made.

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