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Hector Neris reportedly set to join Cubs bullpen

Ryan Herrera Avatar
January 27, 2024

After seeing how important bullpen depth would’ve been at the end of 2023, the Cubs are set to add another reinforcement to their relief corps.

According to multiple reports Saturday, the Cubs and right-handed reliever Hector Neris are in agreement on a one-year contract. As first reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the deal is worth $9 million, with a $9 million team option for 2025. It would convert to a player option in ’25 if Neris pitches in at least 60 games this season, and with incentives, the total could reach $23.25 million.

A key bullpen cog for the dominant Astros from 2022-23 — they won the World Series in ’22 and were a game away from winning the AL pennant in ’23 — the 34-year-old Neris posted a 2.69 ERA and held opponents to a .189/.276/.299 batting line during his time in Houston. That came after parts of eight seasons with the Phillies, and in total, Neris owns a career 3.24 ERA with a 30.1 percent strikeout rate.

Neris has been as durable as relievers come throughout his career. He’s appeared in at least 53 games in each of the last seven 162-game seasons, with at least 68 games in six of those seven and at least 70 in five (including in each of the last three years).

Neris served was one the Astros’ top backend relievers from 2022-23. He threw 122 2/3 innings (130 appearances) in the seventh inning or later during that time, posting a 2.79 ERA and limiting opponents to a .189/.278/.297 line.

That should be a welcome addition to a Cubs bullpen that struggled down the stretch in 2023.

While the group of Michael Fulmer, Mark Leiter Jr., Julian Merryweather and Adbert Alzolay found their groove throughout the summer, overuse due to a lack of other trusted options for former manager David Ross took its toll. Fulmer, Leiter and Alzolay all dealt with injuries in September, forcing Merryweather to carry much of the late-inning load, and the bullpen’s fade was a contributing factor to the Cubs’ collapse.

President of baseball operations Jed Hoyer has acknowledged multiple times the lack of bullpen depth last season and made it clear the Cubs need to shore things up there. Even as recently as the Cubs Convention, Hoyer called it “an Achilles heel last year” and said it was “an area of priority.”

The first bullpen addition came when Hoyer traded for Dodgers reliever Yency Almonte — along with infield prospect Michael Busch — as a bounce-back candidate earlier this month. Now, bringing in Neris should provide the kind of veteran boost they’ve managed to find in recent years with arms like David Robertson, Andrew Chafin and Chris Martin.

Neris doesn’t come without some questions, though. His 28.2 percent strikeout rate was his lowest in a 162-game season since 2017, and his 11.4 percent walk rate was his highest ever over a full 162. He benefited from a very low BABIP (.219) while stranding a very high percentage of runners (90.5 percent), and some regression to the mean could certainly happen.

Still, Neris has had success for a long time at the big league level, and he’s coming off off a career best 1.71 ERA. This is a very reasonable deal for someone who should now provide new manager Craig Counsell with another trusted, late-inning arm to deploy.

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