Cubs add righty reliever Martin on 1-yr deal

March 17th, 2022

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs have a long list of bullpen candidates this spring, but for all the upside within the group, there is an overall lack of Major League experience. Adding veteran arms remains a priority before Opening Day.

On Thursday, the Cubs continued to tackle that area of need via an agreement with free-agent righty Chris Martin on a one-year contract worth $2.5 million plus incentives, as announced by the club prior to the Cactus League opener.

"We obviously have a number of holes to address," Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said on Monday. "Our biggest focus, candidly, has been -- and we've said this over and over -- is on pitching and pitching depth."

The addition of Martin comes after the North Siders brought in veteran righty Jesse Chavez over the weekend with a Minor League contract. Chavez is a non-roster invitee, but he will have a real shot at making the Opening Day bullpen.

Martin, 35, posted a 3.95 ERA in 46 appearances last season for Atlanta, recording 33 strikeouts against six walks in 43 1/3 innings. The right-hander then worked five games in the postseason, logging a 2.08 ERA in helping the Braves win the World Series.

Over the 2020-21 campaigns in Atlanta, Martin turned in a 3.08 ERA with 53 strikeouts and nine walks in 61 1/3 innings. Per Statcast, he averaged 94.8 mph (four-seam) and 94.6 mph (sinker) with his fastballs in '21, and also features a cutter, slider and changeup.

In parts of six years in the Major Leagues, Martin has a 4.06 ERA in 209 games spent with the Rockies, Yankees, Rangers and Braves. That includes a career rate of 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings and a 6.45 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

The Cubs are continuing to seek bullpen reinforcements, especially in the wake of the news that righty Codi Heuer will miss the 2022 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow. Heuer had been in the mix for late-inning opportunities this year.

As things currently stand, the Cubs' top closing candidate is righty Rowan Wick. Hard-throwing righty Manuel Rodríguez is also a late-inning option. Beyond that duo, there are a variety of arms (on the 40-man roster or in camp as invitees) jockeying for jobs.

"There's a unique group of guys that have gotten an opportunity to kind of show what they can do," Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said recently. "Now, it's time to take the next step, right? We know, 'You got your feet wet.' Guys are coming in hungry. It's like, 'OK, got my taste, now it's time to kind of take it to the next level,' which is fun."