Cubs looking to beef up bullpen with in-house talent
When it comes to assembling the bullpen, Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer has a vision.
"I'd love an off-season where we don't have to sign any relievers," he said. "I think that means we have a ton of arms and we can just go with what we have internally. Your internal guys are probably less expensive and you can use that money elsewhere on your roster."
Looking to fill multiple holes in the bullpen before the 2022 season, Hoyer signed a slew of veterans to one-year contracts -- David Robertson, Mychal Givens, Jesse Chavez, Chris Martin, Robert Gsellman and more.
This winter Hoyer signed another batch of relievers, headed by Brad Boxberger, Michael Fulmer and Ryan Borucki.
But the vision is beginning to take shape.
Between draft picks and trade acquisitions, the Cubs have been stockpiling young pitchers and some of them are ready to help out in the bullpen this season.
"We have a lot of good arms," Hoyer said. "I think it's something we've done well. I do think the buy-low reliever market, so to speak, has been a lot higher than in the past. I think it's made that job more difficult but all that said, we have to be able to develop our own relievers in house."
Adbert Alzolay, Javier Assad, Adrian Sampson and Mark Leiter Jr are among the internal relief pitchers that are positioned to contribute this year. Hayden Wesneski was also in the bullpen mix but manager David Ross announced he'll be the Cubs' No. 5 starter Saturday.
Acquired from the Yankees last August in a trade that sent Scott Effross to New York, the 26-year-old Wesneski was 3-2 with a 2.18 ERA in 6 games (4 starts) after joining the Cubs.
There is a chance Brandon Hughes will be the only left-hander in the Cubs' bullpen after an impressive showing (2-3, 3.12 ERA, 8 saves) as a rookie in 2022.
But there is some concern as Hughes has struggled in spring training while dealing with a knee injury.
"He's a really important piece to us, but we're going to do what's right by him for the season," Ross told reporters at Cubs camp in Arizona. "We have righties that can get lefties out at a high rate."
As for the closer, the Cubs had 10 different relievers record saves last season, headed by Robertson's 14 before he was traded to the Phillies in August.
This year should be similar at the back end of the bullpen.
"We're looking for outs," Ross said. "We're looking for guys to get outs every single inning. It doesn't matter if it's the fourth or the sixth every single night. I think every year, somebody kind of grabs that and steps forward.
"It was D-Rob last year for a little while and then the second half we kind of used a little bit of everybody. I think we've got a lot of talented pitchers down there, some guys that are continuing to make names for themselves. I'm excited about watching them compete for it."
Boxberger, who had 41 saves for Tampa Bay in 2015 and 32 for Arizona in 2018, is an obvious closer candidate for the Cubs this season.
Fulmer should also get a shot to pitch the ninth inning. The 30-year-old righty saved 14 games for Detroit in 2021.