A dark horse candidate for the Cubs bullpen

A dark horse candidate for the Cubs bullpen

A cursory glance at the Cubs bullpen depth chart is all it takes to question if they have a reliable left-handed reliever.

Mike Montgomery is the first guy that jumps out, but he fills the role as the long relief option in the Cubs bullpen and is one injury away from re-joining the starting rotation. He also wasn't very good as a reliever last year, posting a 5.13 ERA, 1.44 WHIP and 5.5 K/9 in 26.1 innings out of the bullpen.

Brian Duensing is also projected to make the Cubs' Opening Day roster since he's under contract for $3.5 million, but he also sported an unsightly 7.65 ERA and 1.885 WHIP last year in 37.2 innings. 

There's Randy Rosario, the 24-year-old affable lefty who went 4-0 with a 3.66 ERA in 44 big-league outings last year, but he also had a 1.48 WHIP and walked nearly as many guys as he struck out in 46.2 innings.

Beyond that, there's a group of southpaws the Cubs picked up on the scrap heap like Danny Hultzen, Ian Clarkin, Jerry Vasto, Conor Lillis-White...and Kyle Ryan.

The latter name is an interesting one, both for his low-key solid 2018 season and because the Cubs inked him to a big-league contract back in November, giving him a spot on the 40-man roster.

A host of talented, established big-league relievers were forced to sign minor-league deals with teams this winter, but the Cubs thought enough of Ryan to bring him back on a Major League deal.

Ryan turned heads in 2018, his debut season in the Cubs organization. He worked as a swingman, starting 8 games and appearing 14 times in relief for Triple-A Iowa. All told, he posted a 2.86 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and struck out 61 batters in 66 innings. 

Even more impressive was the low walk total (18 in 66 innings) after control issues ran Ryan out of the Detroit Tigers organization after the 2017 season. For much of the year, his command was even better than his final line indicated thanks to a 5-walk performance in his final outing of the season.

"He had a quiet good year last year," said Jason McLeod, Cubs senior vice president of player development and amateur scouting. "Our guys loved him [in Iowa]. They kept talking about him with the September call-ups and obviously we didn't bring him up. As we were looking at the team going into this offseason, we just felt like he was a guy that could help us this year.

"He's a guy that could really pitch, pitch off his fastball. He's shown he can get right-handed hitters out, so I don't think he's a LOOGY or a lefty specialist in any way. He just took the ball and kept getting outs last year and getting some swings and misses.

"If he shows Joe [Maddon] and Tommy [Hottovy] and the staff what he's capable of doing, I wouldn't be surprised if he's up here this year."

Successful big-league relievers pop up all over the place nowadays and the Cubs could certainly use some good fortune in that regard amid an offseason devoid of financial flexibility.

Ryan, 27, does have some big-league success to his name — going 4-2 with a 3.07 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 56 games as a reliever for the Tigers in 2016. 

He fits the bill as a new-age reliever capable of pitching multiple innings an outing and his versatility as a long man/starter can come in handy for the Cubs.

Couple that with a potential need for a reliable lefty in Chicago and Ryan is an underrated bullpen candidate to keep an eye on this spring.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Cubs easily on your device.

Cubs reportedly demote Carl Edwards Jr. to Triple-A Iowa, will call up Rowan Wick

Cubs reportedly demote Carl Edwards Jr. to Triple-A Iowa, will call up Rowan Wick

Carl Edward Jr.'s return to Chicago didn't last long. 

Three days -- and one appearance -- after being called up from Triple-A, Edwards is reportedly headed back to Iowa: 

His lone appearance over the weekend came in the last inning of Sunday's 5-1 loss to the Padres, facing four batters before getting the last out. He allowed one earned run on one hit, but both walked and hit a batter; the two runners he inherited would score as well.

It's been a rough season for righty, who's spent much of the year on the IL or in Iowa. Back in early June, he was placed on the 10-day injured list with a left thoracic strain. When healthy, he's pitched 15.1 innings to the tune of a 5.87 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. 

Up in his place is Rowan Wick, who himself has seen time in both Chicago and Iowa this season. Wick's latest stretch in Triple-A has been lights out: 

Cubs trade rumors: Is Arizona's Jarrod Dyson on the team's radar?

USA Today

Cubs trade rumors: Is Arizona's Jarrod Dyson on the team's radar?

As we get closer and closer to the July 31 trade deadline, it's becoming clear that the Cubs are firmly in the market for outfield help. 

The first name connected to the team was Detroit right fielder Nick Castellanos, whose prowess against left-handed pitching would significantly buoy a team that's struggled against lefties thus far. 

Now, it's Arizona's Jarrod Dyson who is reportedly on Chicago's radar. On Monday morning, a piece written by The Athletic's Patrick Mooney and Sahadev Sharma details the Cubs' interest in Dyson: 

The Cubs have been interested in Dyson (who has 21 stolen bases and a wRC+ of 86 this season) at previous points in his career and have always liked his skillset. If Dyson is moved, it will likely come closer to the July 31 deadline, giving the Diamondbacks more time to evaluate where they stand this year.

On the surface, Dyson's fit with the Cubs is an interesting one. The conventional wisdom is that for all of Albert Almora's defensive abilities, his offensive production simply doesn't warrant every day starts. This season has been rough for Almora, and he's currently slashing .239/.275/.384 with a .659 OPS, adding up to a career-worst wRC+ (67). As Mooney and Sharma point out, that wRC+ is the 3rd-worst among all players with at least 400 at-bats this year. The contact peripherals aren't much better, with a Hard Hit % and Average Exit Velocity both in the bottom 8% of qualified hitters; his current fWAR (0.0) would suggest he is quite literally the definition of replacement-level. 

With all that said, Dyson's numbers this year have ... not been much better? He's hit .254/.335/.369 with a .704 OPS in 24 less at-bats than Almora has. Dyson's wRC+ (87) is certainly an improvement over Almora's, but nothing to write home about either. In fact, the Statcast profiles for both players look almost identical. First is Almora's, and then comes Dyson:

Like Mooney and Sharma mention, it'd be a platoon move. While their overall stats look the same, Almora's been better against lefties, and Dyson righties, through their careers:

Dyson career vs. RHP: .257/.324/.360 with a .685 OPS (87 wRC+)
Almora career vs RHP: .272 /.303/.398 with a .701 OPS (83 wRC+)

Dyson career vs. LHP: .226 /.309/.272 with a .580 OPS (63 wRC+)
Almora career vs LHP: .286/.335/.420 with a .755 OPS (101 wRC+)

While Dyson isn't going to solve the Cubs' outfield issues on his own, he is more consistently playable against right handed pitching in a way that Almora -- despite some weird reverse splits this season -- has typically not been. It's also worth noting that he'd help solve the Cubs' leadoff issues, as 217 of his 252 at-bats have come from the top. Dyson would give the Cubs a jolt of bench speed, and while stealing bases isn't in this team's DNA, having one of the game's fastest players available as a pinch-runner is obviously a huge advantage in a pennant or postseason run. Acquiring a pinch runner in the latter half of the season has been a staple of the Theo Epstien era, so this falls in-line with what we've seen in the past. 

The Cubs probably have bigger fish to fry, and it doesn't sound like the front-office is solely in the market for platoon outfielders that can pinch run. Production concerns aside, though, Dyson's making $3.5 million and will be an unrestricted free agent when the season ends - so in theory there's a low-risk fit for the Cubs.