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Cubs reportedly nearing deal with Morrow

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Cubs have yet to finalize a reported deal with free-agent reliever Brandon Morrow, who is expected to undergo a physical on Tuesday.

Several reports said the Cubs and Morrow had agreed to a two-year, $21 million contract, but the team has not confirmed the deal.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Cubs have yet to finalize a reported deal with free-agent reliever Brandon Morrow, who is expected to undergo a physical on Tuesday.

Several reports said the Cubs and Morrow had agreed to a two-year, $21 million contract, but the team has not confirmed the deal.

According to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal, Morrow will earn $9 million in 2018 and $9 million in 2019, with a $3 million buyout or $12 million vesting option for 2020.

If Morrow does sign with the Cubs, he'll be the team's fourth closer in as many years, following Hector Rondon, Aroldis Chapman and Wade Davis.

Video: Hot Stove discusses Morrow, Gregerson deals

The Cubs saw just how effective Morrow can be during the National League Championship Series, when he held them to one hit, walked one and struck out seven over 4 2/3 scoreless innings for the Dodgers.

Morrow, 33, is coming off his best season since he was converted to a full-time reliever, posting a 2.06 ERA over 43 2/3 innings with Los Angeles. He set career highs in strikeout rate (29.1 percent) and WHIP (0.92) while not giving up a home run all season.

Hot Stove Tracker

The Cubs have been in the market for a closer since Davis filed for free agency, though they have not shut the door on the possibility of Davis returning. This week, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein was expected to meet with Davis' agent as well as with Scott Boras, who represents free-agent starter Jake Arrieta.

Video: Maddon on Cubs' efforts to bolster their bullpen

The Cubs did get a head start, signing free agent Tyler Chatwood before the Winter Meetings began. They'd like to add a starter and have been linked to the Rays' Alex Cobb. New Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey knows Cobb well from their days together with Tampa Bay. Last season, Cobb went 12-10 in 29 games, striking out 128 over 179 1/3 innings and posting a 3.66 ERA.

Adding pitching is the Cubs' focus this offseason.

"We didn't have to come here desperate," Epstein said. "We could come here and be selectively aggressive, which is how we like to operate. We're feeling good about where we are despite the fact there's a lot more work to be done."

Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Morrow was one of last season's most surprising success stories, emerging as an elite-tier reliever with the Dodgers after opening 2017 in the Minors. Having shown impressive strike-zone command (career-best 5.6 K/BB ratio) while experiencing a notable uptick in fastball velocity (97.9 mph), the right-hander could be poised for continued success as a high-leverage bullpen arm. Morrow is not a surefire fantasy option after throwing fewer than 55 innings in each of the past five seasons. But he will remain on mixed-league draft lists as a closer candidate -- along with Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. -- unless the Cubs add an experienced stopper this winter.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs, Brandon Morrow