Cubs Bullpen Options Shrink as Jesse Chavez Returns to Rangers

So much for Jesse Chavez either wearing a Cubs jersey or riding off into the sunset, huh? Not that anyone really believed his claim in the wake of the Cubs’ season-ending loss was anything more than a boast fueled by emotion, but it did seem like there was a good possibility that he’d be back. Then the Rangers offered two years and Chavez is neither a Cub nor a retiree.

This doesn’t necessarily put the Cubs in a major bind, though it adds a little more urgency to their search for solid bullpen options this winter. Chavez was a revelation after coming to Chicago in a trade, posting a 1.15 ERA and striking out 42 (9.69 K/9) against only five walks (1.15 BB/9) over 32 appearances (39 IP). His fastball had more life and his ancillaries were excellent as well, even though he turned 35 during his time with the Cubs.

Whether and how much the Cubs were willing to gamble on that resurgence being the product of a new team and a playoff race likely led to his return to Texas. Chavez hadn’t posted a sub-4.00 ERA in three previous seasons and had been victimized by the longball to a much greater degree since 2016. And unless the Rangers’ new ballpark is finished ahead of schedule, there’s no reason to believe he won’t go back to giving up homers over the next two seasons.

The biggest issue here for the Cubs is that they need to replace a man who may have been the most reliable strike-thrower they’ve had in the ‘pen in years. While they’ve made some strides in that area, there’s still room to grow. How that happens moving forward is going to be one of the big storylines for this team over the course of the offseason.

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