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Could Seth Lugo Make an Impact in the Chicago Cubs Bullpen?

The Chicago Cubs have done a great job of developing homegrown bullpen arms, but may need some reinforcements for the back-end of the bullpen.

Though the Chicago Cubs had plenty of issues during the 2022 season, few would point the finger at the bullpen as the main culprit for their struggles. The Cubs hit on all of their veteran additions, flipping each of Chris Martin, Mychal Givens, and David Robertson at the trade deadline, and felt comfortable trading away Scott Effross, who was under team control for five more seasons, due to their budding relief depth.

More homegrown relievers flashed serious potential, whether it be Brandon Hughes stepping into the closer role and becoming perhaps the team's most reliable reliever down the stretch, or Jeremiah Estrada flashing nasty stuff in his limited outings, there's a lot to look forward to in regards to the Chicago bullpen.

But the bullpen isn't quite at the level where it can be entirely homegrown like Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer hopes it can one day be. The bullpen has plenty of good middle relievers but lacks proven high-leverage talent, which is where someone like Seth Lugo could come in.

Lugo, who has spent all seven of his major league seasons with the New York Mets, strikes a good balance of affordability, while remaining a late-inning presence. Chicago is likely to spend big money to fill other needs on its roster, and Hoyer has never shown a willingness to shell out big contracts for relievers.

Lugo was at one time a starter in New York, but has worked exclusively out of the bullpen for the last two seasons. The 32-year-old finished last year with an ERA of 3.60 while striking out 25.4% of the batters he faced and walking just 6.6%. The righty also was good at avoiding hard contact, ranking in the 86th percentile in HardHit% according to Baseball Savant. 

The former 34th-round pick also ranks in the 60th percentile of fastball spin and 99th in curveball spin, offering some intriguing pitches for the Cubs to work with. The Louisiana native has been one of the Mets' most reliable setup men, notching 31 holds over the past two seasons, he has valuable late-inning experience compared to the litany of Cubs youngsters.

With Chicago lacking late-inning depth going into next season, and past success in getting good production out of low-cost veteran reliever signings, Lugo fits the mold of a Chicago Cub perfectly. The righty may not be the closer if brought in, but he might get Chicago valuable high-leverage outs.

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