We're still five weeks away from Cubs pitchers and catchers reporting to Arizona, but it's never too early for 2018 season predictions.
What else is there to do for baseball fans right now? The "hot" stove season has been boring as hell.
On the latest NBC Sports Chicago Hot Stove Facebook Live (complete video below), we broke down what the Cubs' bullpen may look like when they break camp and head to Miami for an Opening Day tilt with the Marlins:
Carl Edwards Jr.
A lot to unpack here, but let's start with the closer spot.
Theo Epstein's front office would love for their team's relievers to have defined roles because they understand the bullpen is made up of a bunch of humans and humans typically prefer to know when they're going to be used and prepare in accordance with that.
Joe Maddon, however, is notorious for running with a "closer by committee" where he plays the matchups.
The Cubs don't have a surefire ninth-inning option like they have the last year-and-a-half with Aroldis Chapman and Wade Davis, so it will be interesting to see how the debate between front office and coaching staff turns out.
But Morrow is the guy signed to be the closer (as of right now), though there is some concern about his ability to stay healthy — he's averaged only 18 appearances a season since 2013.
The Cubs believe Edwards is a closer in waiting while Wilson was one of the top stoppers in the game for the first four months of the 2017 season while in Detroit.
Strop could also close if needed, but represents one of the top setup men in baseball, even though he draws some hate from meatball Cubs fans. He's been remarkably consistent, posting a 2.72 ERA in five seasons with the Cubs and never finishing a campaign with an ERA over 2.91.
Cishek also brings closing experience, but can slot in in pretty much any role in the bullpen.
Montgomery is slated as a starter right now given the Cubs don't have a surefire fifth guy in the rotation and even if they sign a guy, Montgomery will absolutely get some starts at some point. But he's also the long man in the bullpen and will fill a swingman role.
From there, things are a bit iffy. The Cubs figure to carry eight guys in the bullpen because they have so many versatile position players that they need fewer bench bats than the average team.
Justin Grimm used to be a mainstay in the Cubs bullpen, but he struggled to the tune of a 5.53 ERA and 1.34 WHIP. From 2014-16, however, Grimm posted a 3.36 ERA and 10.6 K/9 in 203 games in a Cubs uniform. Assuming he can rekindle that form, Grimm may once again be counted on as one of Maddon's middle innings closers.
The final spot in the bullpen may well go to Dillon Maples if the young flamethrower shows up and has a great camp.
Eddie Butler could also be in the mix if the Cubs want another longman to join Montgomery in the 'pen. But with 2.5 months until Opening Day, the Cubs could also acquire another reliever — via trade, free agency or claiming a guy off the scrap heap/waiver wire.
Hot Stove - Predicting the Cubs Bullpen/Sox Prospects Up in 2018
What will the Cubs' Opening Day bullpen look like? Which White Sox prospects will be up in 2018? Hot Stove is BACK and we want to hear your thoughts!Posted by NBC Sports Chicago on Wednesday, January 10, 2018