Chicago Cubs: Opening series highlights the failures of the offseason

(Photo by Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rick Yeatts/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs’ pitching struggled in the season’s first series, causing the team to limp out of the gate.

The Chicago Cubs scored 28 runs in the season’s first three games, but that somehow wasn’t enough to get a series victory against the lowly Texas Rangers.

The question marks that lingered around the team in the offseason and in spring training – Yu Darvish and the status of the bullpen – finally got answered. They weren’t good.

After a promising spring, Darvish didn’t even make it through three innings in his season debut. He struck out four, surrendered three runs, and wasn’t able to locate his fastball, leading to a nearly unbelievable seven walks.

Unfortunately, the bullpen was even worse.

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The Cubs led game two and three of the series multiple times, but the bullpen couldn’t lock up the Rangers’ bats. In 11.2 innings, the Cub relievers allowed eight walks, 16 hits, and 13 runs – that’s good for a collective 10.03 ERA and 2.06 WHIP.

Don’t blame Joe Maddon. Don’t blame Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.

Blame lies solely on the back of the team’s ownership.

With obvious holes in the bullpen, Tom Ricketts and family refused to allow the front office to spend more money to shore up a weak relief corp. As if the situation wasn’t frustrating enough, plenty of good relievers signed reasonable deals this winter.

Kelvin Herrera, a huge piece of the phenomenal bullpen that backed the Kansas City Royals‘ World Series runs in 2014 and 2015, signed a two-year, $18 million contract with the Chicago White Sox.

Jeurys Familia posted a 2.68 ERA and racked up 118 saves from 2015-2018. He signed a three-year, $30 million deal with the New York Mets.

Adam Ottavino had a breakout 2018 season with the Colorado Rockies. He posted a 2.43 ERA and his 36.3 percent strikeout rate was the eighth-best among relievers. He signed a three-year, $27 million contract with the New York Yankees.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There were plenty of other good relievers available this winter. Imagine if ownership had allowed the front office to spend just $20 million more this offseason. Adding two of those three to the Cubs’ bullpen would drastically improve things.

As upsetting as the start of the season was, we are talking about just three games. There’s plenty of time to right the ship.

Perhaps the frustration of the first series will even prove to be the tipping point for the Cubs to finally sign Craig Kimbrel.

A seemingly perfect match the entire offseason, the Cubs have never even been rumored to be interested in the seven-time All-Star. Somehow, the best closer of the generation still remains unsigned after the season’s first weekend of play, despite numerous teams having gaping holes in their bullpen.

The Cubs would be well served to reach out to Kimbrel with a short-term, high-value offer. With that move, the team could negate long-term risk and bolster a roster that has World Series aspirations.

Another option for the North Siders is to move the recently demoted Ian Happ in a trade to acquire bullpen help. It’s not ideal to flip a young multi-positional player with such a high ceiling, but the series in Texas clearly revealed the desperate straits that the Cubs find themselves in.

Whether the Cubs choose to fix their broken bullpen or not, the glaring hole exposed in the season’s first series could quickly sink the team’s postseason chances.

Next. Da Windy City staff predictions for the 2019 MLB Season. dark

If there are no playoff games in Wrigleyville this fall, fingers should be pointed to ownership, not to Maddon, Epstein, or Hoyer.