With his Cubs spring training cap always cocked jauntily in a familiar direction, it’s almost like Pedro Strop never left. He rejoined the team for the second time in as many seasons on a minor league deal after signing with the Reds for 2020 when the Cubs opted not to bring him back. It wasn’t a very surprising move given Strop’s struggles with injuries and overall performance in 2019, but something about seeing him leave just didn’t feel right.
Not to everyone, anyway, as there may be no more divisive player in the organization’s recent history when it comes to fans’ perception. Whatever drives the cognitive dissonance, and I’ll leave you to name the reasons for yourself, it’s certainly not performance. From 2014-18, Strop put up a 2.61 ERA (3.10 FIP) with 334 strikeouts and 116 walks over 296.1 innings.
Even adding in that rough 2019 campaign, his ERA rises only to 2.90 (3.28 FIP) and he still has a double-digit K/9 mark. Simply put, he’s one of the best relievers the Cubs have ever had. If we’re really being honest, though, that’s not the main reason he’s back in camp with his old team this spring. I mean, yeah, maybe he can beat out a crowded house for a bullpen spot, but this feels like a move aimed as much as anything at generating good vibes in Mesa.
Strop is a human helium canister, lightening the mood and bringing joy to teammates and beat writers alike.
We sat down with Pedro Strop this morning and I can say without a doubt, it’s been the highlight of #Cubs camp so far. That dude is an absolute delight.
— Russell Dorsey (@Russ_Dorsey1) March 3, 2021
“He’s like a ray of sunshine,” Jed Hoyer told reporters. “That guy’s never had a bad day and he lifts everyone else up and it’s fun to have him around.”
Strop had long been viewed as a leader in the clubhouse, and not just when it came to fellow bullpen members. He had a guiding influence on Javy Báez and several other young position players during his time in Chicago, something that can’t be underestimated when considering whether and how he can help the Cubs in March and beyond.
Hats to the left pic.twitter.com/BGV0waTRYd
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) February 27, 2021
The other potential aspect here, and I want to present this the right way, is that it’s sort of a favor to the former elite setup man. Even if the odds are long on Strop making the roster, he’s probably got as good a chance with the Cubs as he would with any other team. And you can tell that he genuinely wanted to get another run with them after joining the alternate site last year and being shut down.
“Man, it’s always fun when you go home,” Strop said. “That’s what I consider the Cubs. This is my home. This is my house. To come over and see my guys, my teammates and the staff, I’m just so happy to be back here.”
We’ll have to wait and see how this all ends, whether it’s with a triumphant K-strut or a much quieter parting of the ways, but Strop’s presence this spring can only be a good thing. Along with what he’s done for the Cubs in the past, that’s worth celebrating.