Cubs Land ‘Best Reliever Left on the Market’ With $9 Million Deal

The Chicago Cubs have made their biggest move of the offseason, adding right-handed relief pitcher Héctor Neris on a one-year, $9 million contract.

“The Cubs have been waiting most of the winter to strike, and in doing so with Hector Neris — who’s coming off a season in which he had a 1.71 ERA in 68.1 innings — they get the best reliever left on the market, one who will pitch high-leverage innings on a team trying to win,” ESPN’s Jeff Passan posted to X.

In 10 MLB seasons, Neris has accumulated 89 saves and 676 strikeouts across 541.1 innings. Coming off of a career-best season at 34 years old for the Houston Astros, he had been tied to numerous teams including the New York Yankees this offseason. 

His deal from the Cubs is on the higher-end of an asking price previously reported by SNY’s Andy Martino and that might have been what sealed the deal for Chicago.

“A $9 million option for 2025 belongs to the team unless Neris reaches 60 games — he has done so six of his past seven full seasons — at which point it turns into a player option,” Passan reported. “With more than $2.5 million per year available in incentives, the deal can max out at $23.25 million for two years.”

Passan added that the deal is pending a physical.

How Will Héctor Neris Factor into the Chicago Cubs Bullpen in 2024?

The Cubs saw decent bullpen performance last season, pitching for a collective 3.85 ERA while racking up MLB’s seventh-most total strikeouts and limiting opponents to fewer total home runs than all but six other relief corps. 

28-year-old Adbert Alzolay emerged as the team’s go-to closer, maintaining a 2.67 ERA while netting 22 saves and he will likely maintain that role, but Neris will immediately become one of the team’s best late-inning options.

As the Cubs look to build on an 83-79 season and second-place finish in the NL Central last year, this short-term deal for Neris could prove to be a savvy one.

“On the balance, Neris has been a well-rounded, capable, durable, late-inning reliever for a very long time,” Brett Taylor wrote for Bleacher Nation. “Exactly the kind of veteran the Cubs were looking for, and to get him on a one-year deal with a team option (or a reasonable player option if it vests) is a coup.”

What’s Next for the Chicago Cubs in the 2024 Offseason?

Adding Neris is a sign that the Cubs expect to compete for a division title in 2023 and additional deals could be forthcoming.

After hiring manager Craig Counsell, Chicago has had virtually the same roster as it did last season up to this point, with the most notable change being the loss of starting pitcher Marcus Stroman to free agency and the addition of Japanese starter Shota Imanaga.

Counsell recently indicated that prospects Michael Busch and Pete Crow-Armstrong could see significant roles if the team fails to add another notable free agent. But the biggest remaining question is whether or not the team can come to terms on a reunion with Cody Bellinger, arguably the best hitter remaining on the market and perhaps their best route to true contention in 2024.

“The Cubs remain in the market for a free agent bat and could potentially reunite with center fielder Cody Bellinger, who thrived in Chicago last year, hitting .307/.356/.525 with 26 home runs, 97 RBIs and 20 stolen bases,” Passan noted.

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