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Time For a New Closer?

By Garrett Monaghan

After coughing up a walk-off home run to a .225 hitter, and with rumors of a Pedro Martinez signing swirling around the club, one has to wonder how much longer Kevin Gregg is going to be closing for the Cubs. Gregg surrendered a walk-off two-run homer to Ryan Raburn in the bottom of the ninth last night, wasting a good start by Carlos Zambrano and a clutch two-run homer from Micah Hoffpauir.

Don't get me wrong, Gregg hasn't been horrible this year. He's 11-for-14 in save opportunities, with a 4.18 ERA, and 32 strikeouts in 32 innings pitched. Those aren't too far off his career marks, but what is worrying is that Gregg's been far more hittable this year (.243 opponent batting average vs. .203 from last year) and far more prone to surrendering gopher balls (6 so far this year compared to 3 for all last season.) Part of the problem undoubtedly comes from a move to a more hitter-friendly park, but for a 30-something reliever, it's not a good trend.

The Cubs have said they might be able to add some salary at the deadline, but probably not enough to add an elite closer. Pedro Martinez is apparently contemplating a comeback as a closer and has been clocked in the low-to-mid 90's so far. The Cubs might consider him as an option if they can't pull a deal, but I'd be very very leery of taking a guy who hasn't pitched competitively in months and throwing him into the fire as a closer on a playoff contender.

Personally, I think the Cubs are more likely to try and fill Gregg's role internally, if they decide to try and fill it at all. If Angel Guzman comes back healthy from his DL stint, he would by my choice to take over from Gregg. Marmol's been too erratic this year, and Ascanio's probably a little inexperienced for the role yet, but Guzman's been nearly unhittable and has vicious stuff when he's healthy.

Unless the Cubs can free up some salary room to take on an elite closer down the stretch, they're most likely to look within the organization to replace Gregg, assuming they even think that's necessary. Personally, I doubt the Cubs are going to make any major changes before, or even at, the trade deadline.


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