Chicago Cubs' Jose Veras, right, gets the baseball back from teammate Christian Villanueva (61) after the two collided in the infield trying to run down a slow grounder in the ninth inning of a spring training baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Friday, March 28, 2014, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) ORG XMIT: RFOTK234
METS AT CUBS
The facts: 7:05 p.m., Ch. 9, 720-AM.
The pitchers: Daisuke Matsuzaka (2-0, 2.54 ERA) vs. Edwin Jackson (3-5, 4.81).
Updated: July 5, 2014 6:40AM
When the Cubs cut ties with veteran reliever Jose Veras on Tuesday, it only reinforced a basic bullpen philosophy this front office has held since it was in charge in Boston: that closers are homegrown, not purchased.
Theo Epstein’s front office had made a one-year exception in the case of $4 million free agent Veras to help stabilize a two-year trouble area in the Cubs’ pitching staff and help ease the burden on a bullpen mostly comprised of first-year relievers and rookies.
Veras pitched so poorly from the start that he lost his closer job in less than two weeks and had an 8.10 ERA by the time he was designated for assignment Tuesday.
The Cubs have 10 days to trade or release Veras, but even if he’s traded, they aren’t expected to recoup much of the $2.7 million left on his contract. This front office might never again spend millions to sign a free-agent closer.
‘‘You hope you don’t have to, because you can develop it from within,’’ general manager Jed Hoyer said. ‘‘The difficulty with bringing a reliever in from the outside is it’s a short leash the guy’s on when he comes in. A guy that you know already, you might be able to [transition to the role] at the end of the year to sort of get him acclimated to the role.’’
It’s probably no accident that Hoyer sounded like he was describing Jonathan Papelbon, a homegrown pitcher in the Red Sox farm system when Epstein was the GM and Hoyer an assistant GM there.
Papelbon debuted late in 2005 and by 2006 was the closer, earning four consecutive All-Star selections and helping win the 2007 World Series. But the Red Sox never gave him a multi-year deal, going year to year with the right-hander as his value rose, then allowing him to leave as a free agent for a four-year, $50 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies.
‘‘I would never say never,’’ Hoyer said, ‘‘but certainly I hope that we can develop our own relievers and develop our own closers. I think that does make the path a lot easier.’’
The Cubs aren’t exactly unique thinkers on this subject. The inherent volatility of relievers’ year-to-year performances has exposed several teams to especially high risk on free-agent closer contracts in recent years.
It was one of the reasons the Cubs didn’t attempt to bring back veteran Kevin Gregg after he saved 33 games for them last year. Gregg this week signed with the Miami Marlins and could face the Cubs later this month.
‘‘Look around baseball every year at the All-Star break and see how many teams have the same closer,’’ Hoyer said. ‘‘It’s always a better bet to do it internally with the young guys.’’
That was another message sent in a series of moves Tuesday that also included de facto closer Hector Rondon’s return from the three-day paternity list. Rather than send a high-performing young pitcher such as Brian Schlitter or Neil Ramirez to the minors, the Cubs stuck with the rookies, who had earned their place on the roster, and ate the veteran contract.
Rondon (1-1) and the two rookies all played big roles Tuesday night in the Cubs’ 2-1 walk-off win over the New York Mets, combining with James Russell to pitch 4 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing just two hits without a walk.
‘‘[Eating a contract] is never a fun thing to have to do, but it felt like it was the right thing, given how Schlitter and Ramirez [were pitching],’’ Hoyer said. ‘‘And now with [Pedro] Strop and Rondon [back], we felt good about those guys, and we’re going to go forward with those guys.’’