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Cubs finalize 1-year deal with Jeffress

@MLBastian
February 1, 2020

CHICAGO -- It was not that long ago that right-hander Jeremy Jeffress was an All-Star and a lockdown setup man for the rival Brewers. The Cubs are hoping the reliever can rediscover that form as a part of their new-look bullpen for the 2020 campaign. On Saturday, the Cubs announced

CHICAGO -- It was not that long ago that right-hander Jeremy Jeffress was an All-Star and a lockdown setup man for the rival Brewers. The Cubs are hoping the reliever can rediscover that form as a part of their new-look bullpen for the 2020 campaign.

On Saturday, the Cubs announced that they finalized a one-year Major League contract with Jeffress, bringing the team's 40-man roster to capacity. The pact will come with a base salary of $850,000 and another $200,000 in performance bonuses based on games pitched ($50,000 each for 40, 45, 50 and 55 appearances), sources told MLB.com.

Jeffress will join a Chicago bullpen that has an array of question marks and available jobs that will be claimed in what looks to be a wide-open Spring Training competition. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Arizona on Feb. 11, with the first official workout at the Mesa complex the following day.

As things stand, closer Craig Kimbrel, along with setup men Kyle Ryan and Rowan Wick, look like the only virtual locks for relief roles. Prior to adding Jeffress, Chicago's offseason bullpen additions have included Ryan Tepera and Dan Winkler via split contracts, Casey Sadler via trade and Trevor Megill via the Rule 5 Draft, among others.

The Cubs will also spend this spring determining the best plan for Tyler Chatwood, who is an option for the fifth starter's role or a bullpen job. Two other internal candidates -- Alec Mills (rotation or bullpen) and Duane Underwood Jr. (bullpen) -- are out of Minor League options. Dillon Maples, James Norwood and Brad Wieck are some of the other in-house contenders for bullpen jobs, too.

Per multiple sources and reports, Chicago will also have Brandon Morrow, Jason Adam, Tyler Olson, Danny Hultzen and Rex Brothers in camp on Minor League contracts. The Cubs have yet to officially announce any of their internal or external non-roster invitees.

Travis Lakins, who had been acquired via trade from the Red Sox, was claimed off waivers by the Orioles on Friday, vacating a spot on Chicago's 40-man roster for Jeffress.

The 32-year-old Jeffress is coming off an injury-marred 2019, during which he posted a 5.02 ERA with 46 strikeouts against 17 walks in 52 innings for the Brewers. That came after the righty spun a tidy 1.29 ERA with 89 strikeouts in 76 2/3 innings for Milwaukee in '18. Jeffress had a 56.4 percent ground-ball rate in '18, and then he saw that drop to 48.4 percent last year.

Last year, Jeffress dealt with a right shoulder issue and a left hip problem, contributing to a drop in velocity. Per Statcast, the average velocity on both his sinker (93.7 mph in 2019, compared to 95.1 mph in '18) and four-seamer (94 mph in '19 vs. 95.5 mph in '18) were noticeably down.

Jeffress relies mostly on a three-pitch mix that consists of a sinker (33.4 percent use in 2019, per Statcast), curveball (29.7 percent) and four-seamer (28 percent), while mixing in a splitter (8.9 percent). The right-hander has used that arsenal to generate a 21.7 strikeout rate and 57.8 ground-ball rate in his career.

Souza deal finalized

The agreement with Jeffress comes after the Cubs reached a one-year agreement with outfielder Steven Souza Jr. on Friday. According to a source, Souza's deal was finalized on Tuesday. The outfielder will have a base salary of $1 million, with another $1 million possible in roster bonuses and an additional $1 million available in performance bonuses.

Cubs linked to Gennett

According to multiple reports, the Cubs are among teams that are showing interest in free-agent second baseman Scooter Gennett. The 29-year-old Gennett hit .226 (.568 OPS) in 42 games between the Reds and Giants last year, but he posted a .303 average (.859 OPS) with 50 homers and 52 doubles from 2017-18.

Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.