The Chicago Cubs are off to a respectable 12-9 start to the season, and we are seeing an offense produce at a promising level for the first time in years. The starting rotation is also fairly strong with Justin Steele, Marcus Stroman, and Drew Smyly off to hot starts. Perhaps the most glaring weakness on the roster is the bullpen, which does not have a designated closer yet. The most logical choice before the season began was Michael Fulmer, but his performance has been atrocious in his first 10 appearances. He has blown two saves and given up 9 earned runs over his 9.1 innings pitched including 2 home runs.
With Fulmer’s struggles mounting and Julian Merryweather not trustworthy in high-leverage situations, the Cubs’ failure to add more bullpen help in the offseason is starting to affect the team more apparently by the day. Here are three guys that the Cubs probably regret not signing prior to the 2023 season.
1. Andrew Chafin
Left-handed reliever Andrew Chafin is back to whiffing hitters while sporting a Kenny Powers reminiscent mullet and handle bar mustache. Chafin formerly spent parts of two seasons with the Cubs, where he became a fan favorite for his iconic look and his impressive work on the mound. He was the ideal offseason target for the Cubs who needed and continue to need another lefty in the pen in addition to Brandon Hughes, and they were already familiar with his repertoire.
Chafin even signed late in the offseason, not inking his reunion with the Diamondbacks until the middle of February. With a 2.89 ERA and three saves in 11 games pitched, I bet the Cubs regret not matching the Diamondbacks $6.25 million offer. Chafin also has a club option for the 2024 season. Maybe Chafin was unwilling to return to the Cubs because they traded him to the Oakland Athletics during the 2021 fire sale. But the Diamondbacks also traded him and he resigned with them so who knows.
2. Matt Moore
Matt Moore used to be a mediocre starting pitcher during his time with the Tampa Bay Rays, San Francisco Giants, and Philadelphia Phillies. However, the 33-year-old Southpaw reinvented himself in 2022 when he threw 74 innings out of the Texas Rangers bullpen with a 1.95 ERA. Moore has continued this success in his first 10 outings for the Los Angeles Angels this year, with a 1.64 ERA with 11 strikeouts in as many innings. Similar to Chafin, Moore is another southpaw that could be contributing to the Cubs bullpen and he didn’t sign his $7.5 million contract until February 16th. Unfortunately, the Cubs decided to go with Michael Fulmer who keeps getting shelled.
3. Brad Hand
Say what you want about Brad Hand, but in hindsight, the Chicago Cubs signing him before this season would have made a ton of sense. Like the other guys on this list, he is a lefty that has seen recent success out of the bullpen, going 45 innings with a sub-3 ERA for the Phillies last season. Perhaps more annoyingly is the fact that Hand signed with Colorado on March 4th for just $1.5 million.
I can understand the Cubs not wanting to give Chafin and Moore all the money they ended up signing for to save some room for the trade deadline, but are you telling me they could not get in on the Brad Hand sweepstakes? This would have been the typical low-risk, high-reward bullpen signing that Cubs President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer is basically known for these days. Now we get to see yet another Southpaw dealing for another team. Yes you read that correctly, Brad Hand is currently dealing for the Rockies right now with a 2.08 ERA and 12 strikeouts over 8.2 innings.