Chicago Cubs New Closer Starting To Emerge?

The Chicago Cubs were forced to rebuild their bullpen in the offseason, and have brought in two veterans with some closing experience, either of whom could be the new lock-down man in the ninth at Wrigley Field.

According to Cubs beat writer Patrick Mooney of The Athletic, former MLB first-round pick Michael Fulmer could be the one that manager David Ross trusts to trot out in the 9th inning with a Cubs lead. 

The Cubs took an interesting approach in free agency to land the former Detroit Tigers hurler, as Fulmer said the team focused on him as a pitcher, rather than an all-out sales pitch.

“They were one of the first teams to contact me,” Fulmer said. “Before any dollar figures were exchanged or anything like that, they were saying, ‘Look, this is what we think you can work on. Whether you sign here or not, we think you can benefit by throwing this pitch or something with this shape. Obviously, our interest level is high. We’d love to have you. But even if things don’t work out, this is how we think you can get better.'”

Fulmer started his career as a top starting prospect, but Tommy John surgery in 2019 forced him to reinvent himself as a reliever, and it's paid off handsomely with a 2.98 ERA in that role over 120.2 innings since 2021. He also had 14 saves in '21. 

And after signing a one-year, $4M contract, Fulmer comes in with a chance to win the closer's job on the North Side, or at least a share of it, according to Mooney. 

The Cubs view Fulmer and Brad Boxberger as their primary options for the ninth inning. Boxberger, who signed a one-year, $2.8 million contract this past offseason, has 82 career saves and a long track record of durability and reliability. 

But Fulmer would love to have the role outright, given his druthers. 

“They had conversations about (closing), but I kind of inferred it as me having to win a job,” Fulmer said. “This clubhouse is full of great relievers... Would I love to be back there? Absolutely. That’s just kind of the way I’m wired. When the game’s on the line, I want to be pitching.”

 Photo: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports