Cubs

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Do the Cubs need help in the bullpen?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Do the Cubs need help in the bullpen?

In this episode of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, Rich Campbell (Chicago Tribune), Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000) and Mark Carman (WGN Radio) join Mark Schanowski on the panel.

The Cubs make it four straight, but Wade Davis makes it interesting. Do they need bullpen help? John Lackey looks to rebound, but, if he struggles, should they send the veteran to the bullpen or DFA him?

Bears camp is eight days away. Campbell previews the biggest headlines heading into Bear-bonnais.

Plus, Jimmy Butler opens up about his trade from the Bulls. Was the team right to not build around him?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Brandon Morrow deal becomes official, Cubs add another intriguing arm in Drew Smyly

Brandon Morrow deal becomes official, Cubs add another intriguing arm in Drew Smyly

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Brandon Morrow is officially official as a member of the Cubs pitching staff, and the team also added another intriguing arm Tuesday night at the Winter Meetings.

The Cubs announced a two-year deal for Morrow with a club/vesting option for 2020.

They also signed left-handed pitcher Drew Smyly on a two-year deal worth a reported $10 million, though the 28-year-old pitcher had Tommy John in June and likely won't contribute much in 2018.

The Cubs are looking toward the future with Smyly as a possible 2019 rotation piece. If he's able to return at all in 2018, it will probably be as a bullpen option.

Smyly did not pitch at all in 2017 and was non-tendered by the Seattle Mariners on Dec. 1. He made 30 starts for the Tampa Bay Rays (and new Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey) in 2016, going 7-12 with a 4.88 ERA.

Smyly was one of the pieces that went from the Detroit Tigers to the Rays for David Price at the trade deadline in 2014. In his first 19 starts with the Rays between 2014 and 2015, Smyly went 8-3 with a 2.52 ERA and 121 strikeouts in 114.1 innings.

With Smyly not expected to impact 2018's rotation, the Cubs might still be in the market for another starting pitcher this winter, or they might choose to honor Mike Montgomery's wishes and insert him into the rotation full-time (and subsequently look for a potential swingman for the bullpen and rotation depth).

It'd be hard to just hand Smyly a spot in the 2019 Cubs rotation, but the Cubs committing somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million on a two-year deal indicates they're serious about his long-term potential. Plus, he won't turn 30 until June 2019.

The Cubs also have their other four starters — Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood — all signed through the 2020 season, so either they won't be in hard on long-term free-agent signings like Alex Cobb or would just stockpile pitching and sort out any possible six-man rotation issues a year from now.

Morrow is expected to be in the mix for closing duties for the Cubs but could also serve in an Andrew Miller-esque role and be a jack of all trades as a high-leverage option.

The Cubs still figure to be in the market for relief pitching even after the Morrow signing.

With Cubs' rotation still in flux, Mike Montgomery reportedly wants to start or go somewhere else

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USA TODAY

With Cubs' rotation still in flux, Mike Montgomery reportedly wants to start or go somewhere else

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Cubs' starting rotation has yet to be finalized for 2018. But if they want Mike Montgomery to hang around, they might want to think about putting him in that five-man staff.

According to a Tuesday night report from The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal, Montgomery wants to start with the Cubs or go somewhere where he can start. The Cubs have used Montgomery as a swingman the past two seasons, plugging him in as a starter when another starter got hurt and also using him in various roles out of the bullpen.

The somewhat complex wording of that tweet makes it seem like Montgomery isn't exactly demanding a trade or anything like that, but his desire to be a big league starter seems strong.

As for what the Cubs will settle on remains to be seen as the rest of the offseason plays out. They lost Jake Arrieta and John Lackey to free agency, creating a couple big holes in the rotation, but they've since added Tyler Chatwood on a free-agent deal and have been connected to other pitchers such as Alex Cobb.

Montgomery started 14 games last season, posting a 4.15 ERA as a starter. As a reliever, he had a 2.49 ERA in 61.1 innings of work out of the bullpen.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon has always talked glowingly about Montgomery and has suggested he could be a full-time starter in the past.

Again, even if the Cubs fill their starting rotation with guys not named Montgomery, it doesn't mean Montgomery won't be in the bullpen next season. But for a guy under team control for another four years, it's interesting to see how both Montgomery and the Cubs react if he doesn't get a rotation spot.