Cubs trade for Red Sox relief prospect Lakins

January 21st, 2020

CHICAGO -- One thing the Cubs will not lack in the bullpen this spring will be competition. Chicago has spent this offseason collecting a variety of intriguing cost-effective arms, and the team will spend the preseason sifting through its options as it builds the Opening Day relief corps.

On Tuesday, the Cubs added another bullpen contender to the list, acquiring right-hander from the Red Sox in exchange for either a player to be named or cash considerations. Lakins, who was most recently ranked as Boston's 23rd-best prospect by MLB Pipeline, brings the Cubs' 40-man roster to capacity.

Cubs get: RHP Travis Lakins
Red Sox get: Player to be named or cash considerations

"One thing in this organization that we have had a lack of," Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said this past weekend at Cubs Convention, "is young interesting arms that have plus stuff and maybe just haven't done it yet. Now, I feel I look around this room and we have 10 of those guys, and guys with really interesting pitch characteristics, interesting pitch mix."

The 25-year-old Lakins fits that description, too.

Last season, Lakins appeared in 16 games for the Red Sox, posting a 3.86 ERA to go along with 18 strikeouts and 10 walks in 23 1/3 innings. Across 40 appearances for Triple-A Pawtucket, the right-hander turned in a 4.60 ERA with 42 strikeouts against 23 walks in 45 innings. Boston picked him in the sixth round of the 2015 MLB Draft out of Ohio State University.

Within Lakins' big league sample last season, the righty averaged 93.7 mph on his four-seam fastball, which he threw 39.7 percent of the time, per Statcast. His cutter (37.2 percent) clocked in at 90.4 mph on average and came with a 28.6 percent whiff rate. Lakins' curveball (19.5 percent) had an average spin rate of 2,747 rpm (66th out of 324 relievers with at least 50 results) and a 29 percent whiff rate.

Earlier this offseason, the Cubs also acquired Trevor Megill (Rule 5 Draft), CD Pelham (claimed off waivers), Casey Sadler (trade), Jharel Cotton (trade), Ryan Tepera (split MLB contract) and Dan Winkler (split MLB contract). Chicago has also signed Brandon Morrow, Jason Adam and Tyler Olson to Minor League deals with non-roster invites.

As things currently stand, closer Craig Kimbrel, along with lefty Kyle Ryan and righty Rowan Wick, appear to be the only virtual locks for bullpen jobs. Tyler Chatwood would also have a role, if he is not in the rotation. Two candidates for jobs on the staff who are out of Minor League options are right-handers Alec Mills and Duane Underwood Jr.

Beyond that group, Chicago has a group of internal bullpen candidates that includes Adbert Alzolay, Dillon Maples, James Norwood and Brad Wieck, among others.

The Cubs will continue to look for external bullpen candidates in the weeks leading up to Spring Training, when the team can get the arms into their pitching lab and identify ways to improve their repertoire or usage. For a blueprint, Cubs fans can look back to last season, when the likes of Ryan, Wick and Wieck emerged as under-the-radar success stories.

"We all would love to have those proven, back-end [arms]," Hottovy said. "What's also intriguing is having healthy competition and a lot of young guys willing and wanting to prove themselves and compete, continue to learn and develop at the Major League level. I think that's what intrigues me the most about this group."