clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

No average Joe: Why it’s important Cubs get look at Nathan soon

Joe Nathan is a veteran of six postseasons.

Will the Cubs land an All-Star closer this month before the trade deadline? Or will Joe Nathan fall short of becoming the bullpen answer the Cubs seek as they head into the final two month of the season and, presumably, beyond?

They might get their first look as soon as this weekend in Milwaukee, when once-dominant right-hander could be activated from the 60-day disabled list for a Cubs debut.

Nathan, a six-time All-Star and two-time Tommy John surgery patient, passed one of his biggest rehab tests over the weekend, when he pitched back-to-back days Saturday and Sunday.

He might need just one more appearance to prove he’s ready for his first big-league appearance since early last season.

The sooner the better for a team trying to shore up it’s biggest projected weakness into October – and that might not have the appetite to win the level of bidding war it will take to land one of the few playoff-caliber late-inning arms on the market.

The Yankees have made it clear they want Kyle Schwarber if they decide to trade All-Star lefty Andrew Miller to the Cubs – assuming they decide to trade him at all. Even Yankees rent-a-lefty Aroldis Chapman could ignite high-rise bidding.

Team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer have made it clear they’re aggressively pursuing pitching toward the Aug. 1 deadlne.

With Brad Ziegler traded from Arizona to Boston just before the All-Star break, the non-Yankees market for relievers already has thinned considerably.

“If you already have the answers in house it makes it a lot easier,” manager Joe Maddon said.

Nathan? He’s 41 but was an All-Star in two of his last three full seasons.

He’s coming off a second reconstructive elbow surgery, but he has pitched well in 10 minor-league rehab games, pitching in the low 90s with good command (two runs, nine strikeouts, two walks in nine innings).

The Cubs turned a series of lower profile moves last season into enough bullpen help to be competitive in October, with Clayton Richard, Trevor Cahill and Fernando Rodney all playing significant roles.

If Nathan’s healthy enough, with enough left in the tank, he could be even more significant.

“It’s important to get a look,” Maddon said. “And it does help Theo and Jed regarding what they may be wanting to do as we get closer [to the deadline].”