The Cubs could use another left-handed reliever to compliment James Russell.
Southpaws Brooks Raley and Chris Rusin made their MLB debuts as starters last year, and so far there’s no indication either will transition to the bullpen for the upcoming season.
That leaves Travis Wood as the lone remaining left-hander on the roster, which should give him a slight edge in making the rotation vs. pitching out of the bullpen.
Additionally, the free agent market for lefty relief arms is slim pickings. Of the eight remaining lefties still available here are three I think the Cubs should take look at:
- JP Howell, 29, tops the list and the Cubs have already been linked to him. He missed all of 2010 due to shoulder surgery, had a horrible 2011 season and then rebounded nicely in 2012 wrapping up his fifth season in Tampa Bay. The tough part is there’s plenty of competition for Howell, including the Nationals, Rangers and Phillies. So if the Cubs want him they’ll probably have to come with the dollars and a multi-year offer.
- Mike Gonzalez, 34, is coming off a decent campaign in Washington. He spent the previous two seasons in the AL with Baltimore and Texas posting an ERA above 4.00. He’s also pitched in the postseason the past two years with moderate success and could be another flipable trade piece for the Cubs in July. Like Howell, however, Gonzalez’s services are also being sought after by contending teams such as the Nationals and Reds.
- Rafael Perez, 30, suffered through a nagging shoulder injury in 2012 that limited him to just 7.2 innings. Previously though he was one of the best lefty relievers in baseball with Cleveland. He’s no longer dominate as he was in his earlier years, but Perez is still a tough match vs. left-handed batters and could provide Russell enough of a breather to make him valuable.