The Cubs and Red Sox are among the teams that have shown interest in reliever Ryne Stanek, reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today (X link). MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand also tied the right-hander to the Mets earlier this week.
Stanek, 32, profiles as a rebound candidate. He’s coming off a pedestrian season with the Astros. Over 50 2/3 innings, he turned in a 4.09 ERA with a league average 23.9% strikeout percentage. He issued walks at a slightly elevated 9.9% clip and surrendered 1.42 home runs per nine innings.
That platform showing paints Stanek as a fairly nondescript middle reliever. There’s more intrigue in both his pre-2023 performance and his velocity. He’d turned in a brilliant 1.15 ERA over 54 2/3 frames two seasons ago. While it’d have never been reasonable to expect him to maintain that kind of run prevention, Stanek’s overall production between 2018-22 was strong. Over that five-year span, he managed a 3.16 ERA while punching out more than 28% of opponents between the Rays, Marlins and Astros.
There’s reason to believe Stanek can recapture that form. The 6’4″ hurler remains one of the hardest throwers in the game. His fastball sat above 98 MPH last year, as it has for the bulk of his career. While that didn’t result in his customary strikeout tally, he still remained tough to hit on a pitch-for-pitch basis. Stanek induced a swinging strike on 14.7% of his offerings, placing him among the top 50 relievers in MLB (minimum 30 innings) in that regard.
Stanek’s age and mid-level results last season should limit him to a two-year deal at most. That’s part of the appeal for both Chicago and Boston. The Cubs haven’t been keen on significant bullpen investments in recent years. As shown on MLBTR’s Contract Tracker, Chicago hasn’t signed a single reliever to a multi-year contract since their three-year deal with Craig Kimbrel halfway through the 2019 season. President of baseball operations Jed Hoyer recently spoke generally about the risk in investing heavily in the bullpen because of the volatility associated with many relievers.
Boston hasn’t been as averse to spending on the relief crops, although new chief baseball officer Craig Breslow comes over from the Cubs front office. The Sox are seemingly working with financial limitations at this point of the winter. A deal for Stanek shouldn’t be prohibitive for either team.
The Cubs arguably need to add to the relief corps more than the Sox do. Chicago’s bullpen is led by Adbert Alzolay, Julian Merryweather and Mark Leiter Jr. While the group turned in roughly average results last season, it’s a potential weak point on an otherwise well-rounded roster. Boston has a pair of effective veterans at the back end in Kenley Jansen and Chris Martin, while John Schreiber joins Rule 5 pick Justin Slaten and a handful of starter/reliever hybrids as options for the middle innings. Jansen has been the subject of recent trade speculation (as has Martin to a lesser extent), but there’s no indication Boston is on the verge of a deal.