Colorado Rockies

How Wade Davis heading to the Rockies could shake up the rest of the Cubs' offseason

How Wade Davis heading to the Rockies could shake up the rest of the Cubs' offseason

The Cubs will need a new closer in 2018, what with Wade Davis getting a record contract to pitch the ninth inning for the Colorado Rockies.

So what's that do to Theo Epstein's offseason to-do list?

Well, bringing Davis back sure would've been nice. After all, he was great for the North Siders last season, converting his first 32 save opportunities and 32 of 33 total and picking up four saves in the postseason, including pitching the final 2.1 innings of Game 5 of the National League Division Series to eliminate the Washington Nationals and send the Cubs to their third consecutive NL Championship Series. He's been one of the best relievers in baseball for the past four seasons, turning in a 1.45 ERA and recording 79 saves over that span with the Kansas City Royals and the Cubs, going to a pair of World Series with the Crowns and winning a ring in 2015. And he proved popular in the Cubs' clubhouse with a lot of off-the-field value for that relief corps.

But his absence will be the most dramatic change to a Cubs bullpen that's already undergone a significant makeover this offseason. Chiefly, the Cubs will have a new guy closing out games. They've already added two free-agent relievers in Brandon Morrow and Steve Cishek this month, and while Morrow has little closing experience, he was stellar in a late-inning role for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2017, turning in a 2.06 ERA in 45 appearances. It's that success that had Epstein's front office talking Morrow up as the team's top closing option if they didn't bring Davis back. Well, Davis isn't coming back, so it looks like you can pencil Morrow in as the ninth-inning guy heading into 2018.

But Davis heading to Denver does more than just alter roles in the 'pen. It could also alter the Cubs' approach for the remainder of the offseason, with them potentially shifting the resources they would have committed to re-signing Davis to the ongoing pursuit of a top-of-the-line starting pitcher.

The Cubs have been heavily linked to both Yu Darvish and Alex Cobb, two of the three top free-agent starting pitchers on the market. The third is Jake Arrieta, who spent the past five seasons on the North Side, though he has been viewed as unlikely to return to the Cubs. Earlier this week, it was reported that all three of those guys could be searching for deals no shorter than five years in length. Handing out a deal like that is a risky and potentially expensive proposition for a Cubs team that has looming financial commitments with its young position players and next winter's Bryce Harper sweepstakes. But with Davis signing elsewhere, the Cubs, who are still more than $30 million under the luxury tax, can now use that money to try to lock down one of these top-of-the-line free-agent starters.

While heading into 2018 with Morrow as the team's closer could make plenty of fans nervous, look back to 2016 for a template of how things could play out. Having a dominant starting rotation is incredibly important, and losing Arrieta and John Lackey only to replace them with Tyler Chatwood and Mike Montgomery would have to be considered an offseason downgrade. The Cubs already have Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana as superb arms in their rotation, but adding another top-of-the-line guy could make the difference in the Cubs remaining one of the top teams in the NL. Plus, much like they did in 2016, when they acquired Aroldis Chapman in a trade with the New York Yankees, a midseason addition to bolster the bullpen would not be out of the question, especially if the Cubs manage to hang on to all their young position players this offseason.

All that being said, it's worth noting the evolution of baseball, particularly in the postseason, with starting pitchers throwing fewer innings and closers being turned into multi-inning arms at the most critical moments of games. To not have a dominating closer could mean to be at a disadvantage come October. Should Morrow falter, Cishek does have a lot of closing experience from his days with the Miami Marlins and Seattle Mariners. He's recorded 121 saves in his big league career including a combined 73 of them over a two-year span with the Fish in 2013 and 2014. After Cishek, other internal options are less appealing for fans who watched the bullpen struggle during the postseason. Carl Edwards Jr., Justin Wilson and Pedro Strop could be given shots if it gets to that point.

The Cubs could also still go shopping this offseason. It's unlikely they would spend big money on Greg Holland, the now-former Rockies closer who's still on the market. A lower-cost but more proven option like Addison Reed would make a lot more sense. Reed saved 19 games for the New York Mets last season and posted a 2.84 ERA splitting time with the Mets and Boston Red Sox. He recorded a combined 101 saves in three seasons with the White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks from 2012 to 2014. And there's always the trade market. The Cubs do have all those young position players, and remember that Davis was acquired in an offseason trade with the Royals.

The Cubs have yet to make a blockbuster move this offseason — same goes for the majority of major league teams during this strangely slow winter — but now their plan on how to make one could change. We'll soon find out if it was Davis or bust on the free-agent closer market. And if that was the case, then maybe adding Darvish or Cobb or even bringing back Arrieta becomes more likely. Stay tuned.

Cubs will have a new closer in 2018 as Wade Davis reportedly agrees to big deal with Rockies

Cubs will have a new closer in 2018 as Wade Davis reportedly agrees to big deal with Rockies

The Cubs' bullpen puzzle got a little trickier Friday, as it appears Wade Davis won't be returning as the North Siders' closer.

According to a report from Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan, Davis has agreed to a huge three-year deal with the Colorado Rockies, one Passan reports is worth $52 million.

Cha ching.

That's one of the biggest contracts ever for a relief pitcher — one that can get even bigger, per Passan, as big as $66 million should a fourth-year option kick in — but for the Cubs, it means they'll have to come up with someone else to close out games.

Of course, this has been a possibility for some time, with Davis one of the hottest commodities on the market in terms of relief arms. But there's no doubt Davis was excellent last year in his lone season on the North Side. He converted 32 of his 33 save opportunities and turned in a 2.30 ERA in 59 appearances.

After helping the Kansas City Royals to back-to-back appearances in the World Series (including a championship in 2015), he once again pitched in the postseason, saving four games for the Cubs in series against the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers. While he surrendered three earned runs in 6.1 innings during the playoffs, he picked up the save with an epic performance in Game 5 of the National League Division Series, pitching 2.1 innings to eliminate the Nationals.

As for 2018, though, the Cubs will need a new ninth-inning man. That could be Brandon Morrow, who the team added earlier this month on a free-agent deal. Morrow has saved just 18 games in his 11-season career, but he was a very effective late-inning arm for the aforementioned Dodgers last season, posting a 2.06 ERA in 43.2 innings of work. The Cubs also inked Steve Cishek this month, who has closed for the Miami Marlins and Seattle Mariners, picking up 121 career saves. He saved a combined 73 games for the Marlins in 2013 and 2014. Internal options include Carl Edwards Jr. and Pedro Strop.

And of course the Cubs could add another free-agent arm to the bullpen, too. One big-name closer remains on the free-agent market: Greg Holland, a former teammate of Davis' in Kansas City. Holland was the NL saves leader in 2017, with 41 for the Rockies, who seemed to have replaced him with Davis. Also still available is Addison Reed, who saved 19 games for the New York Mets last season.

Newest Cubs pitcher Tyler Chatwood is a legit breakout candidate

Newest Cubs pitcher Tyler Chatwood is a legit breakout candidate

The Cubs have signed a pitcher, but not the one that's been dominating the last 11 news cycles (...yet?).

Right-handed pitcher Tyler Chatwood — not Shohei Ohtani — solidified his future by inking a three-year deal with the Cubs Thursday afternoon. The deal is worth a reported $38 million:

Chatwood doesn't turn 28 until next Saturday and has spent the last seven years pitching for the Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Angels. He led the league with 15 losses in 2017, but went 12-9 with a 3.87 ERA with the Rockies in 2016.

The former second-round pick (2008) made his big-league debut as a 21-year-old in 2011 and was ranked the game's No. 76 prospect by Baseball America prior to that season.

Chatwood sported a 6.01 ERA and 1.68 WHIP at hitter-friendly Coors Field last year, but his numbers on the road indicate the Cubs may have acquired a nice under-the-radar starting pitcher: 3.49 ERA, 1.23 WHIP.

Here are Chatwood's career splits:

Coors Field (254 IP)
5.17 ERA
1.57 WHIP
1.17 HR/9
10.2 H/9

Away from Coors (393 IP)
3.76 ERA
1.41 WHIP
0.78 HR/9
8.6 H/9

For what it's worth, he also has an 0.69 ERA and 0.69 WHIP in two career starts at Wrigley Field.

That indicates clear room for improvement for Chatwood, a groundball pitcher who now has the benefit of pitching in front of one of the game's best infield defenses. 

Chatwood would make roughly $12.67 million per season, which may seem high but with the skyrocketing price of pitching, $38 million guaranteed for a guy who is just entering his prime and is a legit breakout candidate could potentially be a steal.

The Chatwood signing gives the Cubs a 2018 Opening Day rotation of:

Jon Lester
Kyle Hendricks
Jose Quintana
Tyler Chatwood

All four of those guys are also under team control through the 2020 season.

Then you have Mike Montgomery as a possible swingman/fifth starter option plus Eddie Butler, Alec Mills and Jen-Ho Tseng all as depth.

Chatwood's signing would seem to indicate that the Cubs won't be landing both Ohtani and Alex Cobb, however, which represented the dream scenario for most Cubs fans entering the offseason. The Cubs aren't committing nearly $40 million to Chatwood to have him become the right-handed version of Montgomery and there's no danger of Lester, Hendricks or Quintana losing their spot in the rotation.