Steve Cishek's 2017 was delayed after he underwent hip labrum surgery involving a microfracture procedure in October 2016. After returning in mid-May, the side-winding righty spun a 3.15 ERA and 1.00 WHIP until the Mariners dealt Cishek to the Rays at the July trade deadline, marking his fifth organization since the start of 2015. Cishek was effective for the Rays over the final two months, sporting a 1.09 ERA and 0.81 WHIP with 26 strikeouts in 24.2 frames. Though he's known for his ability to handle right-handers, Cishek can hold his own versus lefty swingers, so be can be used for multi-inning stints, as he was five times last season. Throwing nearly equal numbers of fastballs and sliders, Cishek relies on deception in lieu of velocity, inducing a lot of weak contact, mostly of the groundball variety. After signing with Cubs, Cishek is likely ticketed for setup duty, but he could plausibly work himself into the closer role, where he's had success in the past (73 saves with the Marlins from 2013-14).
Cishek could pick up occasional save opportunities on days when closer Brandon Morrow needs rest this season, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Cubs manager Joe Maddon identified both Cishek and Justin Wilson as options to spell Morrow when needed. Cishek has 121 career saves, so it makes sense that he'd get some looks in the ninth. If Morrow falters or goes down with injury, Cishek could find himself as the primary end-game option after posting a strong 2.01 ERA and 0.90 WHIP a season ago.
Cishek has agreed to a two-year deal with the Cubs, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports. Cishek started his age-31 season with the Mariners, but was shipped to Tampa Bay in a July trade. Since landing on the Rays, the reliever was marvelous, sporting a 1.09 ERA across 24.2 innings. His strikeout rate also climbed a bit up to 9.5 K/9, which is right in line with his career average. As long as the physical checks out, Cishek will join the late-inning mix in Chicago. Brandon Morrow is the current favorite to enter the year as the closer, but Carl Edwards also looms as a worthwhile option late in games, and the Cubs are reportedly still in on potentially bringing Wade Davis back at the right price.
Cishek notched his 14th hold in Friday's 13-6 extra-inning loss to the Red Sox, firing a clean seventh inning. Along with fellow veteran and former closer Sergio Romo, Cishek has brought veteran stability to the bullpen as a setup option, posting scoreless efforts in all but one of his 22 appearances. Cishek has also racked up eight holds and a pair of victories over that stretch, making him an appealing option in AL-only and deeper mixed formats that count holds.
Cishek (3-1) fired a scoreless two-thirds of an inning in Thursday's 2-0 win over the Blue Jays, issuing one walk. Cishek's ERA is unblemished since joining the Rays, as he's now posted 12 consecutive scoreless efforts. The veteran reliever also has a 12:4 K:BB in 11.2 innings over that span, picking up two wins and three holds while lowering his ERA from 3.15 to 1.99.
Cishek notched his ninth hold in Tuesday's 6-4 win over the Blue Jays, allowing one hit over a scoreless seventh inning. The veteran reliever threw only seven pitches, getting all of them into the strike zone. Cishek has yet to allow an earned run in his nine appearances with the Rays, a stretch during which he's also logged a victory and recorded a trio of holds. The 31-year-old's brisk usage and recent performances continue to render him a viable fantasy asset in AL-only and deep formats that count holds.