By Bruce Levine–
(670 The Score) — The Cubs bid farewell to former closer Wade Davis on Friday, as he agreed with the Rockies on a three-year deal worth $52 million that will make him the game’s highest-paid reliever on an annual basis.
Davis was magnificent for the Cubs in 2017, registering a 2.30 ERA and converting 32 of 33 save chances. His exit assures that the Cubs will have their fourth closer in the past four seasons when 2018 starts. In the Theo Epstein-Jed Hoyer era, the Cubs have yet to sign a closer to a multi-year deal.
Davis, 32, deserved to be paid well, but the length of his deal and the money was a bit of a surprise to many in the game. Last offseason saw closers Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen receive five-year deals, while Mark Melancon received a four-year contract. Davis’ market didn’t materialize to that point in length and hasn’t for any pitcher this offseason. Three years is the longest deal any pitcher has signed since free agency opened in November.
The Cubs expected to lose Davis, which is why they made a point to add relievers Brandon Morrow and Steve Cishek on two-year deals in free agency. Beyond that, the Cubs hope Carl Edwards Jr. and Justin Wilson will have a resurgence in 2018 after late-season struggles in 2017. Re-establishing their confidence and control will be on the docket of new pitching coach Jim Hickey when spring training opens in February.
It’s also possible the Cubs could utilize Drew Smyly in the bullpen late in 2018 if his recovery from Tommy John surgery last July goes well.
“If we go into the season with complete status quo, Morrow will be closing,” Epstein said in mid-December at the Winter Meetings. “There are only a very small number of potential acquisitions that could cause us to restructure that.”
Epstein didn’t say it, but adding both a top-of-the-rotation starter on a long-term deal and spending $15 million-plus on a closer was going to be an unlikely scenario on the payroll. And the Cubs still have their eyes on adding another frontline starter such as right-hander Yu Darvish, so it’s not expected that they’ll offer free-agent closer Greg Holland a deal in the three-year, $55-million range that he will desire.
The Cubs are more likely to seek more bullpen help via trade, with Rays closer Alex Colome possibly one that could eye.
The Cubs’ money will likely go toward a starting pitcher in the form of Darvish, Jake Arrieta or Alex Cobb.
After showing interest in Darvish and Cobb, the Cubs remain in the conversation to re-sign Arrieta, sources said. Like Darvish, it’s believed Arrieta desire a contract of five years or more. Arrieta, who turns 32 in March, had a 3.53 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 30 starts in 2017.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.