Friday, June 14, 2024

Surprising Move Could Happen to Cubs Opening Day Bullpen


The 2023 MLB season is going to begin with a 13-pitcher limit on every roster, which was supposed to be in effect from the start of a regular season since 2020. Last year, the rule was finally put into place in the summer, but with team’s now knowing they’ll be limited to a 13-pitcher staff right out of the gate, there are going to be even more tough decisions to make at the end of spring training.

That includes the Cubs, who picked up a bunch of relievers in the offseason and are now also seeing a few prospects impress during Cactus League play. Of course, there are several factors that go into these roster decisions other than stats on a paper. A player might look better, but another may be out of minor league options and a team still wants them around. If you look at the current bullpen mix for the Cubs, there are five or six locks right now, two weeks shy of Opening Day.

Here are my bullpen locks on the Opening Day roster as of March 16.

Keegan Thompson
Adbert Alzolay
Brandon Hughes
Brad Boxberger
Julian Merryweather
Michael Fulmer

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It’s fair to argue if Julian Merryweather should be considered a lock, but he’s looked great so far in spring training. The right-handed reliever is also one of the guys who doesn’t have a minor league option left, so the Cubs may be more inclined to give him a shot to begin the season and see if he can hold on to his bullpen role.

You could also argue that Rowan Wick may be a lock. The Cubs brought him back in the offseason, tendering him a contract and to his credit, the velocity appears to be good in Arizona. Regardless, there are really only one or two spots up for grabs in the bullpen and there could be a surprising move on the Opening Day roster.

I was reading the Chicago Tribune and Cubs beat reporter Meghan Montemurro dropped this little nugget in her article that was projecting the team’s Opening Day roster.

Via the Chicago Tribune.

Leiter has a March 30 opt-out in his minor-league deal, a source told the Tribune, which would allow him to go elsewhere if the Cubs don’t put him on the roster. The opt-out clause isn’t enough to guarantee he will be in the opening-day bullpen. With two weeks to go, injuries could pop up that solve who secures the uncertain two or three openings.

Rucker’s camp performance has impressed the team. He and Wick still have minor-league options.

So, Montemurro included Michael Rucker, Rowan Wick and Julian Merryweather as the last three guys making the Cubs bullpen, with Mark Leiter Jr. being the odd-man out.

Rucker, while being serviceable with the Cubs in 2022, wasn’t really at the top of my list of guys to make the bullpen and that’s mostly because I thought the team would want to hold on to Leiter. Rucker does have minor league options remaining, so the Cubs wouldn’t lose him if he’s not on the roster on March 30, unlike Leiter.

In 2022, Rucker made 41 appearances for the Cubs, recording a 3.95 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in 54.2 innings. However, after he was recalled to the big leagues in August, Rucker posted a 2.93 ERA in his final 30.2 innings for the Cubs. So far in spring training, Rucker has only walked one and surrendered three hits in 4.2 innings, striking out three in four scoreless appearances.

Rucker, who made his MLB debut in 2021, was drafted by the Cubs in 2016, taken in the 16th round out of BYU.


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Mar 16, 2023 6:02 pm

I would be surprised if Wick got another chance after last year. If he does, I hope he finds a way to bounce back. He is definitely not a closer, but is at best, a set up man when he’s going good. 7th, 8th inning. I’m on the fence about Merriweather. I don’t know much about him. We’ll see what happens. Honestly it doesn’t matter to me if Rucker makes the team or not. And I am not a Mark Leiter jr fan. I think he will blow up kind of the way that Adrian Sampson has this spring.

Berny Abby
Berny Abby
Mar 16, 2023 12:53 pm


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