During a press conference with reporters on Thursday, Chicago Cubs manager Rick Renteria re-iterated that Jose Veras will be the team’s closer to start the 2014 season.
Renteria echoed the same sentiment in January at the Cubs Convention.
Veras arguably could be the biggest acquisition that the Cubs made in the winter. Veras signed a one-year, $4 million contract with the Cubs in the off-season after splitting the 2013 season with the Houston Astros and Detroit Tigers.
With the Astros, Veras was the team’s closer. Veras made 42 appearances with the Astros last season while recording 19 saves to go along with an ERA of 2.93 and a FIP of 3.40.
After being traded to Detroit, Veras served as the Tigers’ eighth inning man. Veras made 25 appearances with the Tigers while posting an ERA of 3.20 and a FIP of 4.12.
During his career, the common assessment of Veras is that he is more of an eighth-inning reliever than he is a closer. That is why many have questioned the Cubs decision to inset Veras as their closer. Especially after a 2013 season that ended with a semi-controversy between former manager Dale Sveum and relief pitchers Kevin Gregg and Pedro Strop.
During the last month of the 2013 season, Sveum was advised by the Cubs front office to instruct Gregg that he may not close out every game down the final stretch of games as the organization wanted to see what Strop could do in the ninth inning. Sveum fumbled this assignment as Gregg perceived the former manager’s message as a demotion.
Strop certain made a compelling case to be the Cubs closer to start the 2014 season. With the Cubs last season, Strop appeared in 37 games while posting an ERA of 2.83 and a FIP of 2.31.
One possible scenario is that the Cubs are having Veras close in order to inflate his trade value and then have Strop waiting in the wings. Though, that was the same thing said about Gregg.