Hector Rondon looked to be one of the league's top closers early in 2016, converting his first nine save opportunities while holding 1.04 ERA entering June. He then blew four of his next eight save chances, and once Aroldis Chapman took the closer job, the wheels completely came off for Rondon. His ERA ballooned from 1.70 on Aug. 1 to 3.53 by season's end. Come the World Series, Carl Edwards Jr. and Mike Montgomery were setting up Chapman. Still, Rondon's peripherals were mostly solid, with a .225 BAA and 58:8 K:BB. His downfall was an inflated 1.4 HR/9, due in large part to a 18.2 percent HR/FB. While there's reason to believe Rondon is still an effective pitcher who succumbed to bad luck in 2016, the Cubs traded for former Royals stopper Wade Davis, keeping Rondon in a setup role to start 2017. Still, Rondon's skills make him a logical late-round speculation for saves in deeper formats, considering Davis' health issues last year.
Rondon rejoined the Cubs on Sunday after Venezuela was eliminated from the World Baseball Classic, MLB.com reports. Rondon struggled in two outings, giving up three home runs over just two innings, but he said he still enjoyed the experience. "Any moment you go to represent your country and be there for those fans, it's fun," Rondon said. "I know I had a bad outing that day [against Team USA]. ... It is what it is, and I enjoyed playing with those guys." Rondon figures to work in a setup role ahead of Wade Davis in Chicago's bullpen this year, and he's a good handcuff option for Davis owners.
Rondon said Tuesday that he will join Venezuela for the World Baseball Classic, MLB.com's Carrie Muskat reports. He said in February that he would seek the Cubs' permission to pitch in the WBC, and apparently he received the go ahead. Venezuela faces USA on Wednesday evening in San Diego, so Rondon will presumably be available out of the bullpen for that game.
Rondon, who is on Venezuela's World Baseball Classic roster, said he wants to talk to the Cubs to make sure it's OK he pitches, Carrie Muskat of MLB.com reports. Rondon spent some time on the DL last season with a triceps injury, and he wants to make sure he's 100 percent healthy for the start of the MLB season. Venezuela will begin play in the WBC on March 10 against Puerto Rico.
Rondon agreed to a one-year, $5.8 million contract with the Cubs on Friday, avoiding arbitration, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Rondon lost the closer job upon Aroldis Chapman's arrival last year, but he put together another strong season and will be rewarded for his efforts in his second year of arbitration eligibility. Wade Davis was brought in this offseason to take over in the ninth inning, and while Rondon could get another chance to close if Davis goes down with an injury, Carl Edwards would probably receive some consideration as well.
Rondon is no longer in line to close after the Cubs' acquisition of Wade Davis on Wednesday. Manager Joe Maddon expressed confidence in Rondon on Tuesday, saying Rondon was penciled in as the closer, but it seems Theo Epstein didn't quite share that same level of confidence. The team went out and acquired Davis from the Royals for Jorge Soler, leaving Rondon to presumably fill a setup role to begin 2017. Rondon spent time on the DL in the second half of last season with a triceps injury and struggled upon his return.