COMMENTARY | The struggles of the Chicago Cubs' bullpen have been on full display throughout the 2013 season to the tune of 24 blown saves.
Horrid numbers like that will lead to rampant speculation about who will be where in the bullpen next season. And the biggest question surrounding any bullpen is, who will take the role of closer?
The Cubs will have a few options in 2014:
Kevin Gregg (Free agent, 35 years old)
Despite coming back to reality after a blazing hot start (0.77 ERA, 11 saves between April 19 and June 21), Gregg has been a savior for the 2013 Chicago Cubs. With Carlos Marmol losing his effectiveness and Kyuji Fujikawa lost for the year, Gregg brought stability to a position that threatening to derail any attempted success this season.
Gregg is only signed for this season and will probably want a decent pay raise to consider sticking around on a non-contender. With a few other in-house options on the table, it would be surprising if the Cubs bring him back.
Kyuji Fujikawa (Signed, 33 years old)
Since Fujikawa had early injury problems even before he ended up with Tommy John surgery, it's easy to forget the potential impact Fujikawa might have for the Cubs. He had electric numbers in Japan (220 saves, 1.26 ERA) and was counted on to be a late-inning force in Chicago. His struggles in 2013 could very well be linked to injury. In which case, Cubs fans haven't seen what Fujikawa is capable of yet.
Coming off of Tommy John surgery may make it difficult to stick him in at closer right out of the gate, but he has the experience and, unlike Gregg, will already be on the roster.
Blake Parker (Free agent, 28 years old)
Were it not for the shocking development of Kevin Gregg not getting traded, Parker would almost assuredly be closing games for the Cubs. As it stands, he's routinely used in late-inning situations, has closing experience in Triple-A (44 saves in six seasons), and has been a consistent performer out of the Cubs' bullpen since being called up.
He signed a minor-league contract prior to this season. Since the Cubs need the help in the bullpen, they will probably bring him back. Whether or not he closes remains to be seen.
Pedro Strop (Arbitration-eligible, 28 years old)
After coming over from the Baltimore Orioles in the Scott Feldman trade, Strop has provided a much-needed lift out of the Cubs' bullpen. He has a 2.65 ERA in 18 appearances and has solidified at least being in the closer discussion for 2014.
He has a WHIP under one (0.824), and has 20 strikeouts in 17 innings -- both attractive stats for a potential closer. And Dale Sveum seems to like what Strop brings to the table. April 2014 is a long ways away, but Strop looks to be the early favorite.
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Brian is a lifelong Chicago Cubs follower. Living in Illinois his entire life has given him a chance to closely follow and report Chicago sports as a freelance writer through Yahoo! Contributor Network and Yahoo! Sports. He is also a senior in college majoring in English and Creative Writing.
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