The Chicago Cubs have a number of questions concerning their bullpen this offseason, including what to do with free agent left-hander Justin Wilson.
Ahead of the 2017 non-waiver trade deadline, the Chicago Cubs made a move to acquire left-handed reliever Justin Wilson from the Detroit Tigers. Amidst a pennant race, the Cubs believed Wilson was the missing piece that could put their bullpen over the top. Chicago had good reason to believe they found their guy based on how Wilson was performing.
As a Tiger in the first half of the season, Wilson had served as the team’s primary closer, saving 13 games in 15 attempts. Wilson, one of the top arms available at the trade deadline, posted a 2.68 ERA and 55 strikeouts to go against just 16 walks. His 12.3 K/9 over that span was the highest of his career and miles ahead of his career-average of just 9.9.
Unfortunately for the Cubs, that kind of performance did not carry over for Wilson on the North Side. Following the midseason trade, Wilson appeared in 23 games out of the bullpen, totaling just 17 2/3 innings. His ERA skyrocketed to 5.09 and he walked 19 hitters while striking out just 25.
By the time the postseason arrived, Wilson found himself in Joe Maddon’s doghouse. The lefty made just one appearance in the postseason, pitching two-thirds of an inning in the NLDS against the Washington Nationals. When the NLCS rolled, around Wilson wasn’t even on the playoff roster, replaced by former Cubs closer Hector Rondon.
With all that said, Wilson really bounced back in 2018 to become one of the more reliable arms in the Cubs bullpen. On the year, he appeared in 71 games and pitched 54 2/3 innings. Wilson put up a solid 3.46 ERA, the best among the Cubs left-handed relievers.
He also posted the second-most strikeouts with 69 to go along with an 11.4 K/9 mark. However, as it had been in the past Wilson’s downfall was his walks. He led the Cubs with 33 walks and had a 5.4 BB/9 ratio.