The Chicago Cubs needed to find reinforcements for the bullpen.
Acquiring a reliever with a consistent track record was particularly important — and something they finally addressed Saturday.
The Cubs and veteran reliever Héctor Neris have agreed to a one-year, $9 million deal that includes a $9 million team option for 2025, a source told the Tribune. Neris’ club option converts to a player option if the right-hander appears in 60 games, a mark he has hit each of the last three years and six of eight seasons excluding the shortened 2020 season. His contract ultimately can max out at $23.25 million with incentives.
Bringing in Neris addresses key needs in the bullpen. He brings durability, pitching in at least 70 games five times, and gives the Cubs a proven, back-end-of-the-pen reliever who has experience pitching in big games. The Cubs bullpen struggled down the stretch en route to missing the 2023 postseason as an inexperienced group wore down and battled injuries in September.
Neris, 34, owns a career 3.24 ERA over 546 big-league appearances coming off two seasons in Houston, including a World Series title in 2022. He also spent eight years with the Philadelphia Phillies. Primarily used in the seventh and eighth innings with the Astros, Neris also has experience closing, earning five saves in Houston and 84 with the Phillies.
Neris gives the Cubs another splitter in the bullpen to accompany right-hander Mark Leiter Jr., whose pitch has been a shutdown weapon versus lefties. Neris utilizes his splitter against righties and lefties, a pitch that generated a 42.2 Whiff% and .237 slugging percentage in 2023.
While he typically relies on a four-seam fastball and splitter combination opposing left-handed hitters, Neris also mixes a sinker and slider when facing right-handed batters. His average fastball velocity dropped by 1.3 mph from 2022 to 2023, but this deal indicates the Cubs are not significantly concerned with that.
The Cubs’ work on building a more proven bullpen should not be complete with the Neris acquisition. They still need more depth and ideally another postseason-tested reliever.
And with Cody Bellinger among the notable position players still available in free agency, the Cubs are capable of making significant roster improvements in the coming weeks.