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Billy Wagner As Cubs Closer?

By bullpenbrian at 11.12.2009 Leave a comment.

Cliff Corcoran’s article from Sports Illustrated addresses the needs of all 30 teams this offseason.

For the Cubs he’s listed one outfielder and one rotation spot as the primary need. His list of potential candidates includes: Jermaine Dye, Rick Ankiel and John Lackey.

Without question, there’s a need at center field and the rotation, but I respectfully disagree with Corcoran’s assessment that this is a top priority above bullpen help.

The Cubs must improve its pen’ first. Continuing to rely on has-beens like Bob Howry and Aaron Heilman to carry the heavy-load is disastrous.

Not to mention, the assumption that Carlos Marmol will be a lights-out closer is premature. Obviously, Marmol is a terrific set-up guy, perhaps the best in all of baseball, but his tendency to put men on base makes him anything but automatic in save situations.

I feel equally confident Marmol could tag 40-plus saves next year as I do he could tank by the end of May. Somehow the Cubs need an insurance policy for Marmol as a closer. Angel Guzman is the popular choice, but he’s yet to make it through an entire season healthy.

If it was up to me I’d keep Marmol in the set-up role and pursue a proven closer such as Billy Wagner, Jose Valverde or Rafael Soriano. Such a scenario, however, seems unlikely.

Jermaine Dye has always been an underrated player, but that doesn’t mean I like him on the North Side, either. Forget that he’s a former South Sider, the guy’s on the downside of his career and still a liability in right field, which is already occupied by Fukudome anyway. Dye is best suited as a DH somewhere else in the AL…he has no place with the Cubs.

Rick Ankiel, on the other hand, makes more sense. He’s just 30-years-old, has some pop from the left side of the plate and his defense is superb. Conversely, the many nagging injuries he’s suffered through are a real concern. It’s like he’s in Milton Bradley’s body, but without the attitude.

John Lackey would be a sensational addition to the rotation, but I’d say the Cubs chances of landing him are slim. Until whatever part of Bradley’s contract is history, the Cubs are cashed strapped to make a run at one of the premier free-agents this winter.

If Hendry can deal Milton sooner than later the Cubs may still have a chance to get the 31-year-old right-hander.
But first and foremost, the Cubs better land some bullpen help. That, my friends, should be the top priority.

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