The most important Cubs pitcher up for an award this fall is not Yu Darvish, but rather Jeremy Jeffress. For 3 years the Cubs have been clueless about what to expect out of their bullpen. Last offseason, they took a chance on a low-cost free agent reliever and it paid off big time. Jeremy Jeffress was not just good in 2020, he was great. Great enough to be one of the three finalists for the Trevor Hoffman NL Reliever of the Year award.
Let me repeat, the Chicago Cubs had one of the best relief pitchers in the league!
All-Star Level Production
Jeffress signed a 1-year deal with the Cubs last offseason coming off of a down year with the Brewers. The journeyman was overlooked by most teams, but the Cubs were willing to take the gamble of him returning to his 2018 All-Star form. The risk paid off monumentally, as Jeffress posted a 4-1 record, 1.54 ERA, and most importantly took over the closer role as Craig Kimbrel stumbled out of the gate.
Jeremy Jeffress, 94mph Paint…and K Strut.
[Jeffress won K strut of the year in 2018 and is looking for the comeback K strut of the year award]
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 13, 2020
Jeffress dominated in 2020 and did so with swag. Had he replicated his performance over a full season, he likely would have represented the organization in the All-Star game. The versatility he provided was unmatched in the bullpen. The righty pitched in many different situations and gave the Cubs a solid option to take over the permanent closer role. This type of production and flexibility is exactly what David Ross needs to mix it up late in games and secure wins.
A reliever of the year finalist is not something to take for granted. Whether he is named the winner before Game 4 of the World Series or not, Jeffress deserves praise for being recognized as one of the best in the game. Let’s not forget Kimbrel, former two-time reliever of the year himself, was signed to a hefty contract hoping he could perform at an award-worthy level. Jeffress provided an answer to the Cubs’ most glaring issue and showed he is worthy of a new multi-year contract.
Jeffress Should Be A Top Offseason Priority
The Cubs can not afford to let one of the few stable pieces of their bullpen go. The days of starting pitchers going 7-8 innings are gone. Deep bullpens are becoming increasingly more integral to success each year. An 11-year veteran with a career ERA of 3.08 is not easy to come by in free agency. The Cubs must move quickly to resign the reliever before another playoff-contending team waves a promising offer at him. With the issues this team has had late in games, Cubs fans should hope Jeffress will be a no-brainer resigning, not a major regret.