The closer role for the Chicago Cubs has seemed to be one of life’s greatest mysteries early on in the 2013 season, and has been a question mark in recent years. A position that once was filled by the likes of Lee Smith, Bruce Sutter and Randy Myers is now a revolving door of inconsistency causing gray hairs for many Cubs fans. What should the team do to fix this situation? Let’s explore some possible options.
The first option the team has been trying since late 2009 is Carlos Marmol. His first year as the team’s closer was very successful (38 saves, 2.55 ERA, 138 strikeouts in 2010), but since then it has been a wild roller coaster (most notably with his command). He blew ten save chances in 2011, and has lost the closer role in each of the last two seasons due to his inability to locate his pitches and get crucial outs. I would not be surprised if the Cubs keep returning to Marmol as their closer if other players do poorly in the role, but he has been most successful in his career as a middle relief man.
Another option, which the team appears to be going with, is current closer Kevin Gregg. So far this year, he has converted all six of his save chances and has posted an impressive 1.08 ERA. But in spite of his good numbers, I’m not completely sold on him as being a real “solution” at closer. In his first stint with the Cubs in 2009, he had arguably his worst season as a closer in his career. He converted only 23 save opportunities, blew seven more and was eventually replaced by Marmol.
A third possible candidate for the position would be James Russell. Arguably the best pitcher in an unimpressive Cubs bullpen last season, Russell actually picked up two saves while Marmol was relieved of his closing duties. Russell also posted a remarkable 7-1 record given the team’s overall record, and was one of the few bright spots on the team. Plus, he has the luxury of turning to his father, Jeff Russell, for advice, who picked up 186 major league saves in his own major league career.
My last thought as a Cubs closer: Brian Wilson. He is still on the mend from his Tommy John surgery last season, but given the fact that the team signed other pitchers coming back from injuries this offseason, it doesn’t seem like that crazy of an idea. Scott Feldman has done pretty well so far this season, and Scott Baker hasn’t even returned from his Tommy John surgery last year. If the Cubs sign Wilson and he returns to his all-star form, then they could have a serious late game threat out of the bullpen for years to come.
If I were in the Cubs front office, I would take the risk on Brian Wilson. Not only could he be a potential all-star again, but he would also bring a lot of money from fans who want to see him pitch. And who knows? Maybe he can even help bring a certain trophy back to a certain franchise…