No, no - that's not what I was talking about. However, the Cubs were a viral media sensation last night when Lebron James showed up to the United Center dressed in Cubs garb. This bit of publicity was generated as a result of a friendly wager between he and his former Heat teammate and current Chicago Bull Dwyane Wade. Seeing as the World Series pitted their two hometown teams against one another, it was agreed that who ever lost would have to show up to the victor's arena in full uniform.
It was quite a bizarre (but amusing) sight:
Anyway, back to the business at hand. The Cubs did in fact make a real, bonafide baseball transaction in the latter hours of the evening. For one year and two million bucks, the Northsiders signed Brian Duensing to a contract. Sure, it's not exactly a sexy roster move, but it was one that needed to be made. Allow me to explain.
Duensing on the mound for the Baltimore Orioles last season.
Image courtesy of Geoff Burke, USA Today Sports.
First of all, the Cubs bullpen of 2016 is dead and gone - the 2017 edition is going to look entirely different. The flame-throwing Aroldis Chapman is moving on (I won't miss him) to swim in a ocean of Scrooge McDuck-esque money and the Cubs aren't about to pay that piper. Furthermore, Joe Smith, Trevor Cahill and Travis Wood are now free agents, with the latter two almost certain to get a rotation opportunity elsewhere.
On top of all that, Mike Montgomery, one of the only two pen men Joe Maddon trusted to take the ball throughout the playoffs, was impressive enough that Jason Hammel got the heave ho to clear the fifth starter's spot for him.
That's some decimation, right there.
So, here's the deal - Chapman, Wood and Monty represented 75% of their lefty relief corp and, with the non-tendering of fellow southpaws Zac Rosscup and Gerardo Concepcion last night, their depth took a significant hit as well. Left standing on the 40-man are rookie Rob Zastrzny and the untested Jack Leathersich. Duensing, if he stays healthy, is a more proven option for that LOOGY spot. At the very least, he's a warm body.
Unfortunately, Brian suffered through an arm injury last season in Baltimore and, even when healthy, was hit pretty hard. But, on the bright side, during that abbreviated campaign, he posted an BAA of .190 and, historically, his platoon splits show that he's consistently tough on southpaws.
Also of note, the signing of Duensing follows the Cubs FO's normal strategy for building a bullpen - bring in a good amount of depth in low risk/high reward fliers and rehab projects and see what you can get. Relievers are volatile and investing large amounts of money on relief pitching can quickly torpedo your budget and roster. If Brian busts, the Cubs can swallow his contract pretty easily and move on.
As far as this blog is concerned, luckily, I just so happened to have a card featuring the Cubs new LOOGY hopeful stashed in my Twins trade bait. Thus, this 2011 Topps Flagship base card will serve as Duensing's representation in my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection. I'm not upset with this situation - 2011 Topps has truly grown on me over the past few years and has become my favorite of the decade so far.
Not to mention, I quite enjoy the unique mound conference shot, as opposed to the lately-traditional, zoomed-in UPF image. I can say with confidence that this is the only time that Joe Mauer appears in this binder.
UPF - Ugly Pitching Face
In summation, it's not a super exciting acquisition, but it's one that makes a good deal of sense and pretty much needed to be done. Not every trade and/or signing can be a superstar and it's not like the 2016 World Series Champions are lacking for star talent. Some changes in the bullpen and a resolution to the outfield glut (hopefully bringing in some rotation depth) will likely be all this hot stove season calls for.
Welcome to Chicago, Brian Duensing! Here's hoping you can find your groove again in the Windy City.
Also, Lebron, there's always next year!