Cubs' bullpen shake up continues as Hector Rondon Era comes to an end


Cubs' bullpen shake up continues as Hector Rondon Era comes to an end

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.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Jed Hoyer breaks down Cubs renovated pitching staff


Cubs Talk Podcast: Jed Hoyer breaks down Cubs renovated pitching staff

Between more power in the rotation and more strike-throwing in the bullpen, the Cubs were decisive in how they wanted to remake their pitching staff entering the 2018 season.

GM Jed Hoyer sits down with David Kaplan to explain the thought process of the front office over the winter.

Take a listen here or in the embedded player below. 

Where does the Cubs lineup rank in MLB?


Where does the Cubs lineup rank in MLB?

It's that time of the year — a week out from Opening Day where all the predictions and rankings come through.

The latest coming through the baseball world is's Anthony Castrovince creating a list of the Top 10 lineups in baseball in 2018.

The Cubs come up lower than I expected — sitting sixth.

Here are Castrovince's rankings:

1. Houston Astros
2. New York Yankees
3. Washington Nationals
4. Boston Red Sox
5. Cleveland Indians
6. Chicago Cubs
7. Los Angeles Dodgers
8. Minnesota Twins
9. St. Louis Cardinals
10. Oakland A's

We broke down our own rankings of the Top 10 lineups in Major League Baseball:

Here's how I would rank the top lineups:

1. Houston Astros
2. Washington Nationals
3. Chicago Cubs
4. New York Yankees
5. Cleveland Indians
6. Boston Red Sox
7. Arizona Diamondbacks
8. Milwaukee Brewers
9. St. Louis Cardinals
10. Minnesota Twins

The Astros should be atop everybody's list.

The Nationals may actually be an underrated powerhouse offense, even with Daniel Murphy currently injured. Once he returns, you're looking at probably the best 1-6 of any lineup in baseball with Adam Eaton and Trea Turner (two premier leadoff-type hitters) setting the table for Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon and Murphy (three MVP candidates) and Ryan Zimmerman cleaning things up.

The Cubs may not have the sheer strength and power of the Yankees, but the Chicago lineup is deeper and more well-rounded. Regardless of who leads off and who plays on a given day, this Cubs team will batter opposing pitchers on a nightly basis and feature what very well could be three MVP candidates — Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras.

The Yankees would see a boost here if Brett Gardner shows no signs of aging at 34 and Greg Bird finally stays healthy.

The Indians are stacked, but don't quite boast as much depth 1-9 as the other lineups ahead of them with Tyler Naquin, Roberto Perez and Bradley Zimmer projected to make up the bottom-third of the order.

The Red Sox feature a dynamic young core despite a lineup that is coming off something of a down 2017 campaing. Adding J.D. Martinez to the mix is an incredible boost, as is a full season of phenom Rafael Devers.

The Diamondbacks have Paul Goldschmidt and a few question marks — including how the new humidor will affect the way the ball jumps in the dry Arizona heat. 

With new additions like Lorenzo Cain and former Marlins outfielders Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, the Cubs' main division rivals (Brewers, Cardinals) see a jump in lineup rankings.

The Dodgers are noticably absent given the injury to Justin Turner. Without him anchoring the order for the first month or so, this lineup absolutely needs Chris Taylor to turn in a repeat performance after a breakout 2017.