We’re less than a month away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training in Phoenix, but that doesn’t mean David Stearns is done looking for improvements.
With most of his attention spent trying to plug multiple holes across the diamond, it’s worth noting he hasn’t done much to address another potential question mark heading into the 2020 season — the bullpen. That may be changing, at least according to one report.
Marlins, Cubs, Rangers & Brewers are believed to be among the teams with some interest in Pedro Strop— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) January 20, 2020
Yesterday, Nicholson-Smith said Strop had actual offers from 2 National League teams and an American League team, but interest doesn’t always mean an offer was made (especially when we’re talking about David Stearns).
Still, Strop could be a potentially interesting buy-low add. The 34-year-old struggled last year with the Cubs, throwing 41.2 replacement-level innings with a 4.97 ERA/4.53 FIP as he struggled through an injury-plagued year. Baseball Prospectus’ DRA liked him quite a bit better (3.66), as he still struck out 10.6 batters per 9 innings while keeping the ball on the ground (54%) when batters did make contact.
Brewers fans are likely plenty familiar with Strop already after seeing him pitch for the Cubs over the past 6 years, with a rare combination of high strikeout numbers (10.3 career K/9 with the Cubs) and high groundball rates (53.9% for his career), although he has struggled with walks (3.5 BB/9 with the Cubs and 4.0 for his career, including a 4.3 BB/9 in 2019).
Still, that combination of strikeout and groundball stuff has allowed him to put up a very solid career FIP of 3.38 despite those walks, making him a very solid set-up man over the years for the North Side Nine.
Considering his age and his struggles last year, this feels like a potentially Stearns-y one-year deal opportunity — and possibly some insurance for the back end of the bullpen in case Corey Knebel isn’t quite 100%. It’s worth remembering even if everything goes according to plan for Knebel, he’ll still likely miss the first month or so of big league action while he works back into game shape. Someone like Strop could help bridge the gap to Josh Hader during the first few weeks of the season in that scenario.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and Baseball Prospectus