The Cubs bullpen overall was fantastic in 2018. The Cubs bullpen was atrocious in the final six weeks or so of the regular season. Both are true. So, how’s it looking heading into the offseason?

Here are the relievers currently on the 40-man roster for the Cubs.

  • Brandon Morrow
  • Pedro Strop
  • Steve Cishek
  • Carl Edwards Jr.
  • Brian Duensing
  • Mike Montgomery
  • Randy Rosario
  • Brandon Kintzler (player option)
  • Dillon Maples
  • James Norwood
  • Alec Mills
  • Allen Webster

Here’s who I trust going into 2019 out of that group.

  • Pedro Strop
  • Steve Cishek
  • Mike Montgomery

Carl Edwards Jr. had a few injuries in 2018. The first had him on the disabled list for more than a month and then he was kept off the Wild Card Game roster because he had forearm discomfort in the last few days of the regular season. So, maybe it’s unfair that I don’t trust him because maybe his struggles began because of the injuries, but that’s where I’m at and I’d say a majority of Cubs fans will agree.

And yeah, Brandon Morrow isn’t in my circle of trust. Everyone knew the risk before the Cubs signed him to a two-year deal and the fear became reality. First, he had a back issue, but that was minor. Then, he missed the final 2.5 months of the year with a right-arm injury. Add that to the long list of injuries Morrow’s had in his career and the Cubs simply can’t go into 2019, counting on Morrow to be their closer.

Brian Duensing, bad.

Brandon Kintzler, bad.

Dillon Maples, aka Tyler Chatwwod Jr.

Randy Rosario, eh.

James Norwood, throws hard.

Allen Webster, still rooting for his comeback.

Alec Mills, intriguing.

Mills was traded to the Cubs in 2017, by the Royals. He made seven appearances for the Cubs in 2018, including two starts. One was good, going 5.2 innings against the Reds on Aug. 24, and only allowed a run on four hits, while striking out eight. His next start Mills gave up four runs in five innings to the Mets. Overall, he pitched 18 innings and looked good at times, but just all right in 2018. So, I don’t know, could be a piece maybe.

So yeah, it’s not looking too great for the bullpen, but you do have to realize I’m taking a very negative look at the relievers right now. Morrow could end up being fine and Kintzler may have a bounce back season like Justin Wilson did. Edwards probably returns to being the dominant force he was before his injuries.

Anyway, let’s take a look at the free agent market.

Cubs free agent relievers 

Jesse Chavez
Justin Wilson
Anthony Bass
Jaime Garcia

Jesse Chavez already said that he’s either coming back with the Cubs, or he’s retiring. Maybe he went a little overboard right after the season ended, but it’s pretty obvious he loved his time with the Cubs and hey maybe they’ll work something out. He was amazing after the Cubs got him from the Rangers. Wouldn’t mind bringing him back at all.

Justin Wilson, Anthony Bass and Jaime Garcia, bye.

Top free agent relievers

Craig Kimbrel
Kelvin Herrera
Andrew Miller
Zach Britton
Jeurys Familia
Adam Ottavino

and so on and so on…

The thing is the current Cubs front office hasn’t spent huge money on relievers. The Cubs traded for Aroldis Chapman and then let him walk after 2016. The Cubs traded for Wade Davis and then let him walk after 2017. Morrow, who was their biggest bullpen signing last offseason, only signed a two-year deal worth $21 million guaranteed.

Plus, with the chances looking good that the Cubs pick up Cole Hamels’ 2019 option and the team most likely trying to sign Manny Machado or Bryce Harper, spending big on one of the top free agent relievers doesn’t seem likely.

So, how do the Cubs secure the bullpen for 2019 and beyond?

Trades.

I’m not going to begin to guess who, or what teams, but Theo will find a way to make the bullpen better and he has pieces to not just add a depth arm, but a real impact arm if he makes Ian Happ and Albert Almora Jr. available in trade discussions.

Also, like we’ve seen since 2015, as much as the bullpen can seem like a weak spot, it is somewhat easy to find a trade market in the middle of the year to patch things up. I mean, we saw it just this year, with the trade for Chavez and even picking up Jorge de la Rosa, who provided some great quality innings in the last six weeks.

So yes, the bullpen is something to be worried about, but let’s not completely panic…yet.