The Hector Rondon Era is over on the North Side.
The Cubs declined to offer a 2018 contract to their former closer Friday, part of the effort to reshape their bullpen after a rough postseason for the relief corps.
Rondon saved a combined 77 games in the 2014, 2015 and 2016 seasons, turning in particularly eye-popping numbers during the 2015 campaign — a 1.67 ERA and 30 saves in 72 appearances — to warrant the title of being one of baseball’s best ninth-inning men.
But those numbers ballooned over the next two seasons, and he was replaced when the Cubs acquired Aroldis Chapman in a midseason trade with the Yankees in 2016. Wade Davis was brought over in an offseason trade with the Royals ahead of the 2017 season.
Rondon earned two saves in the Cubs’ National League Division Series win over the rival Cardinals in 2015. But his numbers were not good in each of the last two postseasons. During the 2016 World Series run, he gave up three runs in six innings of work for a 4.50 ERA. He didn’t pitch during the NLDS against the Nationals this year, but he gave up two runs in his three appearances against the Dodgers in the NLCS, hit with the loss in Game 1 of that series.
Rondon ranks sixth on the Cubs' all-time saves list.
With Davis hitting the free-agent market this winter, the Cubs continue to look for their 2018 closer. Whether it’s Davis, another free-agent signing, a trade acquisition or an internal solution, Rondon won’t be the guy, nor will he be back in what is expected to be a very different-looking bullpen.
The Cubs struggled mightily in relief during their playoff series against the Nationals and Dodgers, with a huge 6.21 ERA in their 37.2 innings of work after the starter departed.
Davis is a free agent, along with Brian Duensing, and now Rondon is no longer in the mix. Justin Wilson and Justin Grimm were tendered contracts for the 2018 season, and Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. remain under contract. Mike Montgomery might or might not end up in the bullpen, as he could be a part of the starting rotation.
The Cubs also made a free-agent signing Friday, adding left-handed reliever Dario Alvarez.
Of course, the most important piece of this 2018 bullpen puzzle is figuring out who will be the team’s closer. In each of the past three seasons, Rondon, Chapman and Davis were huge parts of getting the Cubs to the NLCS — and a World Series win, in the case of 2016. While various members of Joe Maddon’s bullpen experienced stretches of unreliability this past season, Davis was pretty rock solid during the regular season, converting 32 of his 33 save opportunities.