Just last night, rumors rumbled that Pedro Strop was considering returning to the Chicago Cubs as a free agent this offseason. On Thursday morning, reports indicated that the chances of the reliever heading back to the Windy City are dead.
In a tweet, MLB insider Hector Gomez reported that the race to sign Strop is down to just two teams, as the Miami Marlins and Texas Rangers are now the final bidders.
In addition to the Cubs, the Milwaukee Brewers have reportedly dropped out of the Strop derby. Bleacher Nation's Brett Taylor pointed out the most likely reason for the change in contenders for the pitcher's services is the kind of contract each club was willing to offer.
Chicago and Milwaukee were thought to be offering a minor-league contract and a chance to earn a roster spot as a non-roster invitee to spring training. Taylor said it's likely the Rangers and Marlins offered full major-league deals.
While some Cubs fans will likely be unhappy Strop isn't returning, Taylor explained that the team has amassed a large number of relievers over the offseason. He posited this is one of the reasons the club didn't offer their former stopper more money and a guaranteed spot on the 40-man roster. Even if some fans weren't impressed with the quality of the relievers signed by the team thus far, it's hard to argue Chicago had a clear spot open for Strop.
Injuries and ineffectiveness in 2019 could have been among the factors behind the Cubs' decision to leave Strop out of their plans for 2020. He missed the end of the 2018 season with a hamstring injury.
He opened 2019 with yet another hamstring pull, and when he returned to the active roster, he posted some of the worst numbers of his Cubs career. Coming into last season, the club hoped he would be able to step into the closer's role and did for a short period of time.
His continued injuries and blown saves eventually convinced the team to sign free-agent closer Craig Kimbrel. That signing is pointed to by baseball analysts as one of the reasons why Chicago is finding itself short of room to maneuver within some strong payroll constraints this winter.
Experts repeatedly cited the lack of spare cash the Cubs have as another possible reason why they were only willing to extend a minor-league deal to Strop. Now, fans of the reliever will have to wait to see whether he remains in the National League with the Marlins or heads to the American League's Rangers.