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Cubs add key piece of Houston’s World Series winning bullpen

1 month agoAndy Martinez

The Cubs are adding one of the best relievers on the free-agent market.

The team has come to terms on a one-year contract with righty Héctor Neris. The deal includes a team option, which converts to a mutual option if he makes 60 appearances.

Neris, 34, was a key member of the Astros bullpen that the last two seasons that won the 2022 World Series and made it to the ALCS this year. Over that time, Neris posted a 2.69 ERA and 1.03 WHIP with 5 saves and 56 holds while serving primarily as the Astros setup man. Last season he was lights out, posting a 1.71 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and a whopping 246 ERA+ in 68.1 innings across 71 games.

The Dominican has pitched in parts of 10 seasons, eight with the Phillies and two with Houston. His acquisition gives the Cubs some much-needed veteran relief help.

The Cubs had a strong backend of their bullpen midway through 2023, with Mark Leiter Jr. and Julian Merryweather emerging as setup men to their budding closer Adbert Alzolay. But by the end of the season, Leiter and Alzolay dealt with injuries and Merryweather was the lone, trusted reliever for then-manager David Ross at the end of the season.

Entering 2023, the Cubs were hoping to have some young relievers emerge as key pieces, but arms like Keegan Thompson and Brandon Hughes dealt with a combination of injuries and ineffectiveness and minor leaguers like Daniel Palencia never really developed into leverage options.

Adding Neris provides both veteran experience and a quality option for manager Craig Counsell, much like they have done in building up their bullpen over the last few years. In 2021 and 2022, the Cubs relied on veteran options like Andrew Chafin, Ryan Tepera, Chris Martin and David Robertson who turned into trusted and dependable relievers. Entering 2023, the Cubs added only Michael Fulmer, who had been a reliever for just two prior seasons, and Brad Boxberger, who missed most of the season with injury.

With Neris in the fold, the Cubs hope to have another late-inning option and not run into the over use issues they went through in 2023 that played a role in missing the playoffs by a game.

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