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Gregg slammed the door Wednesday, despite walking two opponents, for his 29th save. Many still can't fathom that total. Bet the Chicago Cubs can't, either.
That's why they're starting to plan for the future. On the same day Gregg checked in, Cubbies skipper Dale Sveum said he might use Strop in a save chance here and there as they scratch off September days. The club isn't sure who'll close for them next year. Odds say they won't make another commitment to Gregg, who's 35 and an impending free agent. Plus -- gasp -- he now has a smidge of leverage for a decent payday.
Fields settling in?
If we count Gregg out for 2014, Strop boasts the most tantalizing profile to close in this 'pen. Why the former Baltimore Oriole sits in the lead: 2.10 ERA with a 9.82 K/9 and 3.16 BB/9 in 27 games as a Cub. Let's not say for certain yet, but they might've fixed his control issues.
That doesn't eliminate recent call-up Lim for 2014, though. He joined the organization last winter out of the Japanese League, where the Korean right-hander saved 128 games in five seasons and fanned 231 batters in 233 stanzas. He had his second Tommy John surgery last year, as well, and his mid-90s velocity ceiling could be restored by next year. He's looked quite good with 24 K's and a 1.61 ERA in 22 1/3 innings over four farm levels this year.
Of course, dominance doesn't always translate when crossing the Pacific. The side-armer is 37 years old, too, which probably stifles his shelf life, even as a reliever who just had his elbow refurbished.
Parker and Russell look more comfortably entrenched as setup men. But don't forget Kyuji Fujikawa, who's also recovering from TJS, and Daniel Bard, whom Theo Epstein couldn't resist revisiting following the righty's designation for assignment by Epstein's former employers, the Boston Red Sox. (Epstein drafted Bard back in '06.)
Realistically, Fujikawa probably won't enter the picture until 2015 after using late 2014 to work his arm back in shape following his June procedure. Bard could be a non-tender candidate this winter because he'll likely receive an arbitration raise, but they might take him back at a lower cost. He has just as much work to do on his entire approach, but at least he's jumping in with a familiar face running the show.
Epstein wants to see if one of these projects hits instead of shelling out, relatively, for someone who doesn't fit the long-term plan. Gregg won't be shut out of opportunities the rest of the way, but he'll probably yield one or two as Epstein, Jed Hoyer and company continue their evaluations. Either way, grab Strop for immediate help.
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About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, he appears on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio on Thursdays and Sundays, and every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
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