Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera

Jay Biggerstaff/USA Today Sports

Levine: Cubs Would Be Wise To Pursue Kelvin Herrera, Brad Hand

The Cubs' bullpen has been a big strength but has also been taxed.

Bruce Levine
June 12, 2018 - 4:00 pm
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By Bruce Levine--

(670 The Score) A big strength of the Cubs has been their amazingly resilient bullpen this season. Executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer did a quality job of signing free agents Brandon Morrow and Steve Cishek in the offseason, in addition to Drew Smyly, who remains sidelined and on the mend from Tommy John surgery.

Morrow and Cishek have each performed at a level that will merit All-Star consideration, and manager Joe Maddon has done a masterful job of juggling his relievers as the Cubs have ascended to first place in the NL Central after a win against the Brewers in extra innings Monday evening. The Cubs have the third-best bullpen ERA in baseball (2.73) and the second-best overall mark (3.18).

Still, a price has come with the reliance on the bullpen, which has been taxed for long stretches. Carl Edwards Jr. is on the disabled list with shoulder soreness. While not injured, Morrow needed three days off over the weekend because of some arm fatigue.

The attrition is due to a lack of innings from starting pitchers, specifically Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood. Strong contributions from a rotating cast of Triple-A pitchers have been a savior, but that pattern isn't likely to hold up.

Cishek is on pace for just shy of 80 appearances, while Brian Duesing, Pedro Strop and Justin Wilson are pacing for between 72 and 75 appeerances. With this in mind, the Cubs need to scan the trade market for another reliever or two for the second half of the season.

Scouts have been hovering around the Kansas City Royals and San Diego Padres. The Royals will trade the 28-year-old righty reliever Kelvin Herrera, who's set to become a free agent in November. He's been sensational this season, with a 0.73 ERA and 0.73 WHIP and -- most amazingly -- zero walks in 24 2/3 innings of work. Herrera also has World Series experience, as the Royals were the runners-up in 2014 and champions in 2015.

The Cubs seem like an ideal landing spot for him.

"The Cubs, Indians and some of our division are all on Herrera I believe," a National League East scout said. "He is a difference-maker, and he is doing it easier than in the past. The guy is giving up more contact, but it is very weak contact. Herrera has been using his off-speed pitches a lot more. He still has a great fastball, but the wear and tear on him are less. He can be a World Series-bound difference-maker like (Aroldis) Chapman and Andrew Miller were a couple of years ago."

The Cubs talked to the Padres about lefty reliever Brad Hand last summer. The price back to the Padres of Javier Baez was a non-starter, so the Cubs turned their attention to Tigers, from whom they acquired Wilson.

Hand, 28, is working in the first season of a three-year, $19.75-million deal. Hand has a 1.89 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 33 1/3 innings.

"Those two guys are going to get a lot of attention," the scout said. "I like Herrera a little more because of his big game experience. You only get him for three months. Hand you can use two more years."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.