By Bruce Levine–
ORLANDO, Fla. (670 The Score) — Cubs executives moved swiftly this week in order to fill pitching holes in their rotation and bullpen.
After signing right-hander Tyler Chatwood on Thursday to fill a back-of-the-rotation role, the Cubs pounced by agreeing to a contract with right-handed reliever Brandon Morrow on Sunday. Morrow immediately becomes the leading candidate to fill the closer’s role as Wade Davis has hit free agency. If he does, he would be the fourth different closer for the Cubs in as many seasons. Hector Rondon, Aroldis Chapman and Davis filled the role from 2015 to 2017.
The Morrow signing isn’t yet official, as it’s pending a physical. It’s a two-year deal with an option, according to reports.
These moves won’t be the last for the Cubs this week. As the Winter Meetings opened Sunday, the Cubs are still making a push to sign right-hander Alex Cobb to a multi-year deal. There are also eyeing more bullpen help after letting Hector Rondon go recently and with lefty reliever Brian Duensing also joining Davis on the free-agent market.
Still, the addition of Morrow at what’s believed to be around $10 million or $11 million annually is a good start. He will be looked to as the team’s closer unless the Cubs bring back Davis, which isn’t expected as Davis is believed to desire $13 million to $15 million annually on a multi-year deal.
The Cubs also still view righty reliever Carl Edwards Jr. as a possible closer of the future despite some command troubles this past season, which is another reason they’re comfortable with the year-by-year approach to filling the closer’s spot.
Morrow, 33, is coming off an impressive season as a dominant setup man after spending most of his career as a starter. He was 6-0 with a 2.06 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 10.3 strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate in 45 appearances over which he didn’t allow a home run. He was also a postseason workhorse, pitching in 14 of the Dodgers’ 15 playoff games.
Morrow does have a little closing experience, recording a combined 16 saves with the Mariners across 2008 and 2009 early in his career. Injuries hampered his effectiveness as a starter, as he pitched in just 28 games combined from 2013 to 2015. Morrow went back to the bullpen with the Padres late in 2015 and established himself a quality back-end reliever in 2016.
The Cubs have been pleased to address some pitching needs without having to move any of their core young players. That’s still a possibility, as president of baseball operations Theo Epstein noted at season’s end, but for now, all that talent remains with Chicago.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.