Relief pitcher Pedro Strop discusses his new one-year deal with the Cubs on Feb. 24, 2017, in Mesa, Ariz.
While the Cubs face the prospect of losing at least 40 percent of their rotation for 2018, they haven't overlooked stabilizing their bullpen for the future.
When they signed Pedro Strop to an extension through 2018 with an option Friday, the Cubs addressed one free agent question and now can shift some attention to other long-term issues.
"We don't want to be in a position of always having to rebuild the bullpen," general manager Jed Hoyer said. "Pedro has been a rock for us down there and with his pitching. That's why we wanted to bring him back.
"But it's also who he is. He has a leadership role on this team. He has been terrific in the clubhouse for us. He's terrific in the pen. He's a guy you want to keep around."
The Cubs and Greg Genske, Strop's agent, discussed a multi-year deal before Strop agreed to a one-year, $5.5 million contract two weeks ago that avoided an arbitration hearing.
Under terms of the extension, Strop, 31, will receive $5.85 million in 2018. The Cubs will hold a $6.25 million option with a $500,000 buyout for 2019.
The Cubs have received a lot of mileage out of Hector Rondon (a Rule 5 pick in December 2012), Justin Grimm (acquired from the Rangers midway through 2013 in the Matt Garza deal along with Carl Edwards Jr. and Neil Ramirez) and Strop, who was dealt with Jake Arrieta from the Orioles on July 2, 2013.
Strop's experience may come in handy considering veterans Wade Davis, Koji Uehara and Brian Duensing can become free agents after this season. And remember the Cubs needed to acquire Aroldis Chapman (now back with the Yankees) last July to take over the closer's role for Rondon and his tender right arm.
Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer discusses the contract extension of reliever Pedro Strop on Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. (Mark Gonzales/Chicago Tribune)
Strop envisions the Cubs bullpen will evolve, especially as Edwards, 25, continues his development.
"I remember when C.J. got called up (in 2015), and I took him to the side and explained everything because I was older," Strop said. "I was talking to him about how everything works and I told him if they call you up, it's what we're doing down here.
"Don't try to do anything different because I passed through that before. Now he knows what he wants to do. We don't have to tell him anything. Maybe in one year or more, he's helping me with the new guys coming up. It's good to see him like that."
Left-hander Rob Zastryzny, who is targeted as a starter at Triple-A Iowa, appreciated the veteran treatment he received during his major-league debut last August when he was encouraged to sit in the middle of the bullpen bench at Coors Field and absorb tips from more seasoned relievers.
The extension also quells questions about the value of Strop, who tore cartilage in his left knee in August and was disappointed he didn't pitch more in the postseason after his return.
"If there were any hard feelings, we wouldn't have done an extension," Hoyer said. "He puts every person around him in a better mood every day."
Strop had no qualms about passing up free agency and perhaps the chance to close games.