Chicago Cubs Rumors: Will the Cubs pursue big name lefty relievers?

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /
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New York Yankees Zach Britton
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

The Cubs are likely suitors for two-time All-Star Zach Britton.

Another free agent that would upgrade the Cubs’ left-handed bullpen options is Zach Britton, a player the team was linked to in trade rumors as recently as the 2018 trade deadline.

Britton’s story is similar to Miller’s. Once an elite closer with the Baltimore Orioles, injuries have hampered Britton over the past two seasons.

After allowing just four runs in 67 innings and posting a historic 80 percent groundball rate (the best ever since that stat has been tracked) in 2016, Britton very well may have been the best reliever in baseball. However, he didn’t remain in that discussion very long when injuries drastically altered his 2017 season.

Britton went through two separate disabled list stints that year, both due to a recurring left forearm strain. Although he did work his way back to the mound both times, he was shut down in September with a knee injury.

When he was on the mound in 2017, he wasn’t the same. From 2014-2016, Britton had the second lowest ERA among qualified relievers at 1.38. In his troubling 2017 campaign, that number jumped up to 2.89. Perhaps even more telling of his injuries was the fact that he saw his strikeout rate fall nearly 10 whole percentage points between those same stretches.

That wasn’t the worst it would get for Britton, as he suffered a ruptured Achilles in December 2017 that delayed his 2018 debut until mid-June.

Although he missed the first two months, Britton still managed to pitch in 41 games last season. Like the year before, his numbers weren’t at the elite level they once had been. Britton posted a 3.10 ERA and 7.7 percent K-BB%, both far worse than the numbers he had during his phenomenal three-season run from 2014-2016.

Now two years removed from being one of the best closers across both leagues, Britton’s future contract will surely suffer from the injuries and drop in production he’s experienced the last two seasons. pegged Britton to land a three-year, $33 million contract this winter. Like previously discussed with Miller, Britton could opt to sign a one-year prove-it deal to show that he’s still one of the best late-game options on the market, before re-entering free agency with a higher value in 2020.

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Whatever type of deal Britton wants this offseason, one thing is for sure: he’ll be in high demand. Every team that thinks they have a shot at a 2019 World Series would love to bolster their bullpen with a guy like Britton.

With so many teams as potential suitors, it won’t be easy to sign either Miller or Britton, but the Cubs huge need for lefty relievers may force their hand to outbid the competition.