The Cubs are one of a handful of clubs without a closer and it appears that they could turn to the trade market to fill the role.
According to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times, the Cubs are eying deals for Nationals relievers Drew Storen or Tyler Clippard among other possibilities. Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post confirms the report and adds that the Nationals are expected to listen on Storen.
Storen struggled as a set-up man this past season, posting a 4.52 ERA in 68 appearances while even spending some time in the minors. Meanwhile, Clippard was his usual dominant self, putting up a 2.41 ERA and 73/24 K/BB ratio over 71 innings. Both pitchers are due raises in arbitration this winter.
Kilgore categorizes the talks as “extremely early,” but sees outfielder Nate Schierholtz and left-hander James Russell as possible fits with Washington.
Left-hander Brian Duensing signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Cubs on Friday, per a report from FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman.
The free agent spent the bulk of his 2016 season with the Orioles after receiving a call-up from Triple-A Norfolk in early June. He underwent elbow surgery several weeks later when a freak bullpen injury revealed cartilage chips and inflammation in his pitching elbow, but recovered to finish the season with a 4.05 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 13 1/3 innings for the club. The Orioles utilized him for a final out during the AL Wild Card game, during which Duensing recorded a five-pitch strikeout in the ninth inning of their 5-2 loss to the Blue Jays.
The 33-year-old is currently expected to bulk up the Cubs’ left-handed relief corps, with fellow left-hander Mike Montgomery slated for the rotation in 2017.
According to an official team announcement, the Nationals have acquired catcher Derek Norris from the Padres in exchange for right-hander Pedro Avila.
Norris, 27, batted a career-low .186/.225/.328 in 458 PA with the Padres in 2016. He hit career highs with 14 home runs and nine stolen bases, but his dismal production rate through the second half of the season spelled the end of his time in a starting role in San Diego. Norris’ departure from the Padres also confirms 24-year-old Austin Hedges‘ spot on the roster, as reported by MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell:
Heading to San Diego is 19-year-old right-handed starter Pedro Avila, who was acquired by the Nationals as an international free agent in 2014. The 19-year-old spent his first season in Single-A Hagerstown and went 7-7 with a 3.48 ERA and 2.42 K/BB rate in 93 innings.