LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Can right-hander Brandon Morrow be the next Aroldis Chapman or Wade Davis for the Cubs — a postseason-tested reliever capable of closing deep into October?
That was the Cubs’ thinking in pushing hard to eventually reach agreement on a two-year, $21 million deal with the former Dodgers setup man over the weekend, just ahead of the start of the Winter Meetings.
But the Cubs still plan to stay in touch with Davis and aren’t ruling out a return of the All-Star free agent.
The Cubs on Monday still wouldn’t confirm the Morrow deal, but sources say the only detail left to clear is a team physical scheduled for Tuesday. The deal includes salaries of $9 million in 2018 and 2019, with a $12 million vesting/club option for 2020 ($3 million buyout).
When asked about his closer situation Monday, team president Theo Epstein said, “I think we’re pretty close to signing somebody that certainly we’d be comfortable closing games. He is the type of team player that would be willing to take any role, depending on what the rest of the personnel looks like.”
Morrow, who battled injuries in recent years before a breakout 2017 season with the pennant-winning Dodgers, had four scoreless appearances against the Cubs in the National League Championship Series, allowing just one hit and one walk. He then pitched all seven games of the World Series.
Morrow spent two months as the Mariners’ closer in 2008, earning 10 saves before being converted into a starter and finishing that season with five starts. He then opened the next season as the Mariners’ closer again, earning six saves before losing the job in May.
His only two other career saves came last season, when he also went 6-0 with a 2.06 ERA in 45 appearances.
Without talking specifically about Morrow, Epstein said he is fine having someone with little or no experience closing in the role.
No regrets in Ohtani process
Epstein said he has no regrets after the organization-wide effort that put the Cubs in the unlikely position of being one of seven teams to make Japanese free agent Shohei Ohtani’s finalist list, except for the part where the two-way star ultimately chose to sign with the Angels.
In fact, after a lengthy sit-down early last week with Ohtani that included chairman Tom Ricketts, manager Joe Maddon and pitcher Kyle Hendricks, Epstein said he came away thinking they had improved their odds.
“I was so proud of the work that the organization had done, and I felt so passionate about the fit, that I probably fooled myself into thinking we had a real chance,” said Epstein, who surmised the lack of a DH and geography. “I certainly wish him well. He’s a really impressive kid.”
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