The Cubs took a big step in addressing their bullpen depth this week by landing marquee free agent Craig Kimbrel.
That’s not to say they’re done.
With the July 31 trade deadline seven weeks away, the Cubs are looking to potentially add another arm in the bullpen.
“I’m always believing that you’re always in search of making your club better, and I wouldn’t doubt that if something were to come along, that the boys might jump in there also,” manager Joe Maddon said Thursday before the Cubs’ 3-1 loss to the Rockies. “If there’s something that really jumps out at you, you can’t run away from it.”
Maddon’s comments came one day after team president Theo Epstein said the Cubs plan to be as active as other seasons.
“With the way we bounced back from that early-season adversity, we’ve shown some character,” Epstein said Wednesday as the Cubs were close to terms with Kimbrel. “There have been some really nice performances out of the pen, but it’s certainly an area ... we plan to be aggressive.”
Kimbrel, whose three-year, $43 million deal hasn’t officially been announced by the team pending a physical, offered a much-needed boost to the Cubs’ bullpen.
“It lengthens the bullpen, it makes us a lot stronger,” reliever Steve Cishek said. “Adding a piece like [Kimbrel] ensures that we’re built to win it.”
Kimbrel hasn’t pitched in a major-league game since Game 4 of the World Series on Oct. 27. Maddon expects that it will take Kimbrel, a seven-time All-Star, about three weeks to build stamina before he can join the Cubs.
“In that time, we’re going to continue to hold the fort like we’ve been doing,” Cishek said. “But when he gets here, it’ll definitely be an added bonus.”
One benefit of Kimbrel not signing until two months into the season is that it should have given him plenty of time to recover after a deep postseason run with the Red Sox. Kimbrel slumped in the second half last season and had a 5.91 ERA in the 2018 postseason.
“Maybe he was tired, I have no idea why that happened,” Maddon said. “The guy should be well-rested, he’s coming in and playing right now, be ready probably right before the All-Star break at some point, and then just listen to him. … If he needs a day, he’s going to get a day.”
Will Zobrist return?
After a tight offseason budget, the Kimbrel acquisition was only made possible because of Ben Zobrist’s absence.
Is that an indication the Cubs think Zobrist isn’t returning from his personal leave this season?
“Anybody’s guess, really,” Maddon said. “We have to be prepared mentally that he’s not going to, but that doesn’t mean he’s not going to.”
Zobrist and his wife, Julianna, filed for divorce last month.
Other than a few texts, Maddon has had little contact with Zobrist. He said the team supports Zobrist’s leave.
“It’s him as a family man, him worrying about his kids, making sure this all comes together properly for them,” Maddon said. “It’s all honorable on his side. Whatever he decides to do, we’re definitely going to be on board with. Of course, we’d love to have him back. But I have no idea.”