Commentary: Maddon, the bullpen and predictions on who’ll be traded

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Joe Nicholson - USA Today Sports
Joe Nicholson - USA Today Sports

Joe Maddon has his “circle of trust,” and it would seem that at least a few of the relievers in the circle are the ones who’ve recently struggled the most. From May 11 through May 21, the bullpen gave up a total of 14 runs, two leads and they were directly accountable for two losses. Over the last week (May 15-21), the Cubs’ bullpen had tossed 25 innings, giving up a total of 32 hits, 14 ER, 11 walks, four homers and have only fanned 15.

Joe undoubtedly trusts his circle, sometimes to his detriment, as he continually fails to use guys who have shown steady, and in some cases, remarkable improvement. Tyler Chatwood has appeared in only five games in May (10 IP), yet in his last four appearances (total of 9.00 IP), he’s posted an ERA of 1.00. Following an IL stint, Mike Montgomery has recovered, not only from his injury but from his horrific start to the season. In May, Monty has only made four appearances (9.2 IP), yet has posted an ERA of 1.86. Before Montgomery’s injury, he’d made four appearances (2.2 IP) and gave up five earned runs (16.92 ERA).

Meanwhile, Carl Edwards, Jr. continues to be off-and-on, especially when under pressure, yet he’s making frequent appearances. Brandon Kintzler has been getting knocked around some lately, especially when inheriting runners, and Kyle Ryan has been doing the same.

Have a little more faith in Chatwood and Monty, Joe, they’re your backup starters, and you have them sitting idle in the pen. Chatwood cost the Cubs $38M (3 years), and while he was useless last year, he seems to have it figured out now. In his previous four relief performances Chatwood’s gone 12.0 innings and given up only two earned runs, and hey, let’s not forget that clutch, pinch-hit, RBI double that he smacked in Thursday’s loss to the Phillies.

In general, the media continues to point out the elephant in the room concerning the Cubs’ pen. The Cubs are posting wins, but often those seem to come despite the pen, rather than because of it. In Brandon Morrow’s continual absence, the closer role remains vacant. Pedro Strop looked to be the man, but a 5.06 ERA with two blown saves in six attempts (66.7% save rate) isn’t going to cut it. Further complicating Strop’s ability to close for Chicago is his ongoing issues with hamstring problems. Steve Cishek has done well in the closer role, racking up four saves in five attempts (80%), but his last official “closer” role was back in 2014 (Marlins) when he racked up 39 saves.

The July 31 non-waiver trade deadline is approaching- faster than some think, and the Cubs will undoubtedly be wheeling and dealing for relief help. Theo Epstein has eluded to the fact that the Cubs will be wheeling and dealing, and suddenly he says that not even Craig Kimbrel is entirely out of the question.

My gut tells me that Ian Happ will undoubtedly be dealt this time around, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Addison Russell goes, so long as they can find a trade partner for him. In Russell’s case, the Cubs seem to be using him just enough to showcase that he still has some value, but they don’t (and won’t) use him as an everyday starter.

The team will have to make room in the pen as well, but with minor league options limited, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them deal at least two of the following: Rowan Wick, Kyle Ryan, Xavier Cedeno (if they can find a buyer), Carl Edwards, Jr. and/or Allen Webster.

Stick around- July is coming, and there’s going to be about as many pitching changes (in the form of trades) as Maddon makes in an average game.

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Tags: Joe Maddon, Tyler Chatwood, Mike Montgomery, Xavier Cedeno, Brandon Kintzler, Kyle Ryan, Brandon Morrow, Pedro Strop, Steve Cishek, Ian Happ, Addison Russell, Rowan Wick, Theo Epstein
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